Beware the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle

Maui hasn’t had to deal with the coconut rhinoceros beetle…yet. But the invasive and destructive insect is spreading on O’ahu, which means it’s nipping at our shores.

Native to Africa, China, Myanmar, India, and Southeast Asia and measuring between 1.2 and 2.4 inches in length, the beetle has entirely decimated coconut palms on some Pacific Islands by chewing into their leaves to feed on sap. It can also take hold in banana, pineapple, and sugarcane.

A coconut tree damaged by a rhinoceros beetle. (Image courtesy Hawai’i DLNR.)

The first observation on O’ahu was at the Harbor-Hickam base in 2013, but recently sightings have been reported island-wide, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). The beetles can only fly about two miles, but, because they lay their eggs in compost and nursery stock, transport between the islands seems like more of an inevitability than a possibility.

Here’s how you can help: If you spot a rhinoceros beetle, or signs of one, call (808)-643-PEST or go here.

As with any invasive species, early detection is paramount. Check out this, via the Department of Agriculture, for a clear idea of what you’re looking out for.

Jacob Shafer