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Research & Response Updates (September 2021 Newsletter)

This information was originally shared through the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) Response's quarterly newsletter. To sign up for updates on CRB, add your name to the form at the bottom of this page.

This map shows where our traps have caught CRB in the past six months. The size of the circle represents the number of beetles caught in a trap—a larger circle is a trap that has caught a higher number of beetles in the time period. Our highest-catch areas include Pearl City Peninsula, Waipio Peninsula, Ewa Beach/West Loch, and populations emerging in Mililani and Kunia. Concerning outlier detections on the North Shore of Oʻahu require increased attention and effort.

CRB Response Updates:


Building on promising results from previous palm treatments, our whole team is coordinating large-scale palm treatments in Pearl City Peninsula, our highest catch area on Oʻahu. This involves surveying the current extent of tree damage, mapping host trees, removing fruits and flowers, applying treatments, and monitoring trapping in the area. It will take several months to determine the efficacy of the treatments.

At Iroquois Point, where this treatment was deployed in the summer of 2020, beetle trap detections now rarely exceed 10 beetles caught per week. Plans for reapplication are in the works.


Data on beetle detections and breeding material availability in the field determines where and how our staff focus their efforts. This quarter, the CRB Data Team has fully transitioned our program to using ArcGIS Field Maps and ArcGIS Survey123 to collect data in the field. The combination of these apps allows our program to streamline data collection and to store data efficiently.


CRB Outreach spent the summer doing activities with the camp keiki at the Honolulu Zoo and developing continuing education courses through the International Society of Arboriculture and Hawaiʻi Dept. of Agriculture. The CRB Response will be hosting a Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Treatments Webinar, Thursday, October 7th from 2-3 PM. Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) has approved this course to provide CEUs (1 unit) for licensed pesticide applicators in the following categories: Pvt. 1, Com. Cat. 1A, Com. Cat. 3, Com. Cat 10. CEUs from the Western Chapter ISA are pending.

Through presentations and events, the CRB Response reached a total of 1,321 people this quarter. Our team also spoke with 290 members of the public and 202 business contacts.


The canines have continued honing their detection skills. Green waste piles in Kunia, where detections have skyrocketed, are too numerous and massive for the field crew to survey sufficiently. To date, the canines have identified two new breeding sites in the area.

This quarter we also welcomed Roberta Bitzer as the new Canine Survey Lead.

Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference: “Kūlia i ka huliau: Striving for change”

The 28th annual Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference was held July 27-29 this year. This exciting conference gives scientists, policymakers, conservation practitioners, educators, students, and community members from Hawaiʻi and the Pacific a platform to discuss advancements in natural resource conservation. This year's conference theme, "Kūlia i ka huliau — Striving for change," spoke to transforming the way we do conservation in Hawaiʻi and forging a new way forward in the face of change. With the upheaval brought by covid-19 and other social and political changes in recent times, the conference allowed participants a chance to reflect and imagine a sustainable future for Hawaiʻi.

The CRB Response and University of Hawaiʻi researchers made a few appearances at this year’s conference. From exciting technology being applied in the field to outreach efforts in the face of covid; coconut rhinoceros beetle and CRB Response efforts were highlighted in four presentations with mentions in many others. The virtual format allowed presenters the option to pre-record their presentations. Our outreach team took on the challenge to add supporting video clips to presentations to help the excellent work of CRB researchers stand out.

The outreach team partnered with researchers working on coconut rhinoceros beetle control methods to produce content for the Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference. Kaili Kosaka uses an iphone recording system to collect footage of Dr. Cheng talking about his research on chemical control methods.

This research update from Dr. Zhiqiang Cheng at the University of Hawaiʻi covers the work of his team in applying chemical and biological treatments to control CRB. Chemical controls include systemic insecticides. Through this research, they were able to identify four chemicals effective at killing CRB. The conclusions from years of Dr. Cheng’s research is currently being applied at the landscape scale in some of Oʻahu's highest catch areas for CRB. With initial promising results, the CRB Response is excited about this new treatment option for combating CRB. Dr. Cheng's team has also explored biological controls like entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi. While the nematode work only showed a 35% ability to control CRB, the entomopathogenic fungi appear to be more promising. Beauveria spp. and Metarhizium spp. performed the highest, showing >80% CRB larvae mortality in the lab and >40% mortality in the field. Work on both the chemical and biological fronts continues as these treatments are applied in the field.

In this presentation, Dr. Mike Melzer- Principal Investigator of the CRB Response discusses his research in developing tools to control CRB in Hawaiʻi. Dr. Melzer and his team are exploring the application of the mobile vacuum steam unit (MVSU) in the sterilization of infested material. Material is loaded into a chamber that draws a vacuum and injects steam. This quickly heats the material to a temperature fatal to CRB. The team is also exploring the use of RNA interference (RNAi). CRB genes essential to survival are targeted and turned off, killing the insect. Unlike other pesticides, RNAi can be highly species-specific making it great at targeting one pest, while not affecting others. Field application of the MVSU is ongoing while RNAi field trials are likely a few years off.

Outreach Specialist Kaili Kosaka collects close-up video of RNAi research in Dr. Melzerʻs lab.

Graduate student Mohsen Paryavi has been working with Dr. Dan Jenkins to apply machine vision tools in understanding the current distribution of CRB. This is used in two ways: camera traps and tree damage image learning. Camera traps use an image recognition algorithm to recognize CRB in traps then alert users to CRB by emailing a photo or sending a text. There are over 3,100 traps across Oʻahu. This means the field crew would no longer need to check every trap, just the ones that have beetles in them. Another application of machine vision tools is the use of a UAV or drone. Aerial drone surveys can quickly cover large areas cutting down on time spent on foot by our field crew. A program is trained to detect CRB tree damage from the imagery. This technology could eliminate the need for field tree damage surveys. Both of these advancements have the potential to dramatically reduce valuable field crew time needed to monitor the CRB population.

Outreach Specialist Koki Atcheson gathers video content in the field of East Division Lead Adrienne Antonsen. Field content like this made the HCC presentations more engaging than a regular PowerPoint.

The success of past Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) Response outreach activities has relied on in-person events and interactions. With covid-19, the CRB Response, along with countless other organizations, faced the challenge of moving into the digital realm in 2020. Careful consideration and planning helped us to bring our outreach capabilities online. By creating an online presence, the CRB Response has reached more than 500 unique website users in the first three months and maintained a social media engagement rate that peaked at 100 times that of the industry benchmark. Now, with an established online presence, we continue to engage with the community without having to leave the office. The poster "Contactless Connecting: How we brought invasive species outreach online" lays out the plan our outreach team followed. With no end in sight to COVID-19, creating an online presence has been vital to keeping the CRB Response connected to the communities we serve.

We're thankful to the Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference for allowing us the platform to share the current work being done to combat coconut rhinoceros beetles in Hawaiʻi and to situate our work in a larger movement to enact positive change for Hawaiʻi. Follow the links in each presentation title to watch the full presentations on YouTube and share them with family and friends!


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