Invasive two-lined spittlebug threatens Hawaii grazing land

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Invasive spittlebug threatens Hawaii grazing land

  • Apr 24, 2017 Updated Apr 24, 2017

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — University of Hawaii and state officials are joining forces to contain an insect that is threatening grazing lands on the Big Island.

The spittlebug has been found at two ranches in Kona since September, including one property that had about 2,000 acres of damaged pasture, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/2q6R8tV) Monday.

“The kikuyu grass was pretty much dead in most areas, with weedy types of grasses coming in,” university extension agent Mark Thorne said about the damaged pasture. “There’s virtually nothing for the cattle to graze, and it was a fairly large area.”

The spittlebug, which creates “spittle masses” where nymphs mature into adults, feeds at the base of grasses and sucks fluid from the plants. Over time, this weakens the grass and can kill it.

“If it spreads out from the Kona area and gets out into the Kohala and Waimea pastures . it could be very devastating for the cattle industry here,” Thorne said.

The two-lined spittlebug is native to the southeastern United States. It’s not known how it arrived on the Big Island.

State agriculture officials are working with the Florida Department of Agriculture to identify natural enemies of the insect.

“If they’re able to do that, we would be able to import them in to the (Hawaii Department of Agriculture) quarantine,” state entomologist Robert Curtiss said. “Eventually, we would want to release a biocontrol agent if we could find them.”


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