Visitors flock to the Hawaiian Islands for sun-soaked holidays filled with silky beaches, turquoise water, lush green hillsides — and naked palm trees missing their leafy crowns?
That possibility has state officials worried because Hawaii’s iconic swaying palm trees are under attack. Their nemesis is the latest in a long line of invasive species to arrive here: the coconut rhinoceros beetle.
Much as the Asian long-horned beetle attacked maple and elm trees on the East Coast, the coconut rhinoceros beetle could devastate Hawaii’s palm trees and move on to bananas, papayas, sugar cane and other crops afterward. Adult beetles burrow into the crowns of palm trees to feed on their sap, damaging developing leaves and eventually killing the trees.
At this point, eradication is still possible. It’s going to take a long time, but it’s still possible.- Rob Curtiss, incident commander for Hawaii’s coconut rhinoceros beetle eradication program
Concerns that the thumb-sized pest, named for its curved horn, could hitch a ride to California or Florida and attack thriving palm oil and date industries there have prompted federal and state officials to declare the beetle’s discovery in Honolulu a pest emergency.
One year into the fight — Dec. 23, 2014, was the anniversary of the beetle’s discovery on coconut palms at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam — state officials are cautiously optimistic.
“At this point, eradication is still possible. It’s going to take a long time, but it’s still possible,”