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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

rhinoceros on coconut

The coconut rhinoceros beetle, named for its curved horn, feeds on the sap of palm trees, eventually killing them. In Hawaii, officials fear the beetle could move on from palm trees to bananas, papayas, sugar cane and other crops. (Sara Lin / ForThe Times)

By Sara Lin
January 24, 2015, 8:56 PM | Reporting from HONOLULU

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,” said Rob Curtiss, incident commander for Hawaii’s coconut rhinoceros beetle eradication program, a joint operation of the U.S. and Hawaii departments of agriculture.

The urgency to address the problem is both cultural and financial. The coconut tree is depicted in the ancient hula, and in some neighborhoods, every other house has a palm tree growing in the front yard.

“If somebody is coming to buy a property in Hawaii, they will expect nice palm trees,” says Curtiss, an entomologist with the plant pest control branch of Hawaii’s Department of Agriculture.

Curtiss leads a group of about 40 people charged with eradicating the bug. Field teams check trees, set up traps and monitor mulch piles for signs of beetle larvae. So far, they’ve put up 2,700 beetle traps across Oahu and surveyed more than 100,000 trees.

On a recent Friday, team leaders Chad Goldstein and Zachary Potter headed out on their daily rounds to Iroquois Point, just across the harbor from beetle ground zero at Pearl Harbor. The former military housing community is filled with coconut trees.

The pair scanned the tree tops for leaves that have been snipped in an inverted V-shape — a sign of beetle damage. Most of the affected trees in this community have been tagged and are continually monitored. Less than 100 yards away, Potter spotted two more trees just starting to show damage.

“When we first started coming out here six months ago, none of the trees were damaged,” Potter said. “But now a lot of the coconut trees are just completely torn up. It’s really sad.”

It takes a practiced eye to spot early damage on an otherwise healthy tree, and the habit can be hard to break off duty.

“I’ll be at the beach and find myself staring at coconut trees all afternoon,” Potter said.

The pair continued on their rounds, checking their maps to find the traps, which resemble 4-foot-long black lanterns with a white plastic cup at the bottom. The nocturnal beetles are attracted to the trap by a pheromone lure and the glow of a small solar-powered LED light. When a beetle bumps into the trap, it falls into the cup and can’t escape.

The beetles are native to Southeast Asia and have spread throughout the Pacific. Pictures of beetle-ravaged groves in Guam show barren trunks jutting 40 feet out of the ground like giant twigs.

Studies of Palau in the 1950s showed that half of all palms on the island were killed within 10 years of introduction. A more recent survey in 2006 of infested areas in Malaysia showed that beetles wiped out 67% of palm crops.

Officials suspect the beetle came to Hawaii in air cargo.

Entomologists still haven’t developed an effective pesticide to kill the beetle and its Vienna sausage-sized larvae. Chemicals used successfully in Southeast Asia aren’t approved for use in the U.S. A virus and a fungus targeting the beetle are possible, but researchers still must conduct studies to make sure they won’t harm other native species.

Mapping the infestation is step one. So far, the beetle appears to be contained to three major areas, all on military property. Of the 1,500 beetles caught in 2014, only 60 were found off base. Most days, except on the military base, the traps are empty, bar the occasional live gecko.

Step two is destroying breeding sites. The bugs breed in mulch piles, which means a lot of mulch grinding and burning.

The bug doesn’t appear to have landed on the neighbor islands, but expanding monitoring operations there is on Curtiss’ agenda for 2015. Eradication efforts cost the state and federal governments $2.5 million in 2014. Curtiss has asked for more as the operation continues to ramp up this year.

He’s in the process of buying a drone with a camera to peer down into tree crowns — it’s cheaper than hiring a truck with a cherry picker. He’s also hoping to add scent dogs and dog handlers to his staff to help search for beetles in mangroves and other areas with thick brush.

Eradication efforts in Honolulu are helped along somewhat by white egrets and especially mongoose, the latter of which burrow into mulch piles to gobble larvae.

The beneficial role of the mongoose is welcome, though a surprise. It’s an invasive species in Hawaii as well, and has decimated many native bird populations.

nation@latimes.com

Lin is a special correspondent.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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Muniappan headshot

 

Muni Muniappan wins award for work in tropical agriculture

 

Saving the papaya industry in southern India. Discovering an invasive species in Senegal and Nepal. Connecting researchers in developing countries. These are some of the accomplishments of entomologist Rangaswamy “Muni” Muniappan that caught the attention of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development and that won him the organization’s 2014 award for scientific excellence.

Muniappan received the BIFAD Award for Scientific Excellence today in Des Moines, Iowa. It is presented each year by the presidentially appointed body that governs U.S. foreign assistance in agriculture.

Muniappan is director of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab, a venture that works in developing countries to achieve three vital aims: minimize crop losses, increase farmer income, and decrease pesticide use. Muniappan, a longtime expert in the study of insects that benefit or harm humans, leads a multimillion dollar research portfolio of projects that includes partners from 16 American universities and 51 overseas organizations.

Muniappan discovered the papaya mealybug in Asia and helped employ biological control to eradicate it, which restored the livelihoods of thousands of farmers on the Asian subcontinent. This translated to an economic benefit of more than $1 billion over five years, according to a study published in the Journal of Crop Protection.

His discovery of the tomato leafminer (Tuta absoluta) in Senegal allowed experts to be warned so that preventive biological control measures could be taken for a pest that likely threatens all sub-Saharan tomato farmers.

Muniappan has created incentives for scientists to work together across national boundaries. He recently brought together scientists from South Asia and Central America in a conference on invasive species in Senegal.

Muniappan’s achievements also include control of such pests as the pink hibiscus mealybug, the fruit-piercing moth, the red coconut scale, the banana weevil, and the Asian cycad scale. He has worked to control weeds including the Siam weed, lantana, and the ivy gourd. He has been instrumental in establishing working groups for the weeds chromolaena and parthenium within the International Organization for Biological Control.

Muniappan’s career includes 36 years spent in Guam; a stint as a Fulbright Research Scholar in India; a UN Food and Agriculture Organization consultant in the Maldives, Palau, and Vanuatu; and a visiting professorship at the University of Guyana.

An honorary member of the International Organization for Biological Control since 2010, Muniappan has published journal articles in the Journal of Economic Entomology and Annals of the Entomological Society of America.

Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the innovation lab is managed by Virginia Tech’s Office of International Research, Education, and Development.

Related articles:
1. Speckled beetle key to saving crops in Ethiopia
http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2014/08/082214-outreach-oiredspeckledbeetle.html
2. Halting crop destruction in India saves up to $309 million
http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2014/01/012214-outreach-oiredindiasaveddollars.html
3. Virginia Tech research program confirms presence of invasive insect in Senegal
http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2012/09/092812-oired-tuta.html
4. Virginia Tech entomologist helps Asian farmers fend off papaya mealybug
http://www.vt.edu/spotlight/innovation/2012-10-15-india/mealybug.html

 

 

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Philippines Invasive Species Aug  2014-5a

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The Japan Times News

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The Chinese giant salamander has established itself in Kamogawa and part of the Katsuragawa river network in Kyoto. | WIKICOMMONS

BY ROWAN HOOPER

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/05/17/national/science-health/alien-invasion-threatening-native-species/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+japantimes+(The+Japan+Times%3A+All+Stories)#.U3fFhtJdVdM

NATIONAL / SCIENCE & HEALTH| NATURAL SELECTIONS

BY ROWAN HOOPER
MAY 17, 2014

An invasion has been going on under our noses. It is multipronged, ruthless and very difficult to repel. It has been called an “ecological apocalypse.”

If you look out your window you may be able to see evidence of it. That pigeon flying past? An invader. Likewise, the cat by the garbage. Most are so familiar we don’t even think of them as invaders, but they are not native to Japan. There are many more, and most are far less obvious.

“Non-native invasive species have been popularly described as one of the four horsemen of the ecological apocalypse,” says Nisha Owen, a conservation biologist at the Zoological Society of London. “They are a real and pressing danger to biodiversity and ecosystems.”

Outside of my window in London I can see two ring-necked parakeets in a tree in my garden. Their bright-green plumage and raucous squawking call are not typical of the English garden — these birds are native to Africa and South Asia — but they live now in large numbers in southeastern England, and in the rest of Europe.

The parakeets of London nest early in the year and occupy holes in trees that native species such as woodpeckers would use. Pretty though they are, there are thousands in London alone and they are now classified as a pest.

In Japan, alien species are widespread and well-established. Some of the native species threatened by invaders are well-known. There is the Amami rabbit, an extremely unusual species of rabbit sometimes called a living fossil as it is so different from other species of rabbit and hare.

Carnivores that have been introduced by humans — sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally — now threaten the very existence of the Amami rabbit.

“The Amami rabbit is one of the most evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered mammals in the world,” says Owen, who works on the EDGE of Existence Program (www.edgeofexistence.org), which highlights and conserves evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered animals in the world.

“Although declared a Japanese national monument, this species is under threat from the introduced small Asian mongoose — one of the world’s most invasive species — which has killed large numbers of rabbits since their introduction in 1979 to control snakes,” she says.

OK, you might be thinking, but the establishment of parakeets in England and Asian mongooses in Japan is hardly enough to qualify as an “apocalyptic” invasion. Even if you add pigeons and cats, it’s not the end of the world.

However, there are many thousands more invasive species and, added together, you start to see the scale of the problem. For example, in Europe there are more than 13,000 non-European species that live in the wild.

There are hundreds of non-native insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals breeding regularly in Japan — so many that I couldn’t count them all in the database. For anyone interested, Dr. Koichi Goka of the Invasive Species Research Team at the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba (my old research institute) has put together a great online resource in English: www.nies.go.jp/biodiversity/invasive/index_en.html.

Here are a few of the invaders Japanese biologists are most concerned about. They are classed as “100J” species, the list of Japan’s top 100 worst invasive pests.

In Wakayama and Aomori prefectures, Taiwanese macaques have established themselves. They hybridize with native Japanese macaques, so “contaminating” the gene pool of the native species. In Tokyo and Chiba Prefecture, there are populations of snapping turtles, released by people who purchased them as pets. These turtles attack and eat native freshwater animals.

There is a moth — the fall webworm — the caterpillars of which devastate native trees. There is even a cane toad. Notorious as one of the worst invasive species in Australia, there are cane toad populations on some Okinawa and Ogasawara islands.

The invasion situation is so bad that biologists are proposing a new way of tackling the problem: create a “Black List” of invasive species — the opposite of the Red List of endangered species that is collated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

It’s not a simple problem to solve. Even if it was easy to catch or kill all the individuals in the wild of the species you were interested in, sometimes a species that is an invader to Japan may be rare elsewhere. This is best illustrated by an exotic and dramatic-looking species that has established itself in Kamogawa and part of the Katsuragawa river network in Kyoto, the Chinese giant salamander. You’ll know it if you see it — they are monsters, growing up to 1.8 meters long.

“The Chinese giant salamander (is) another evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered species that is desperately in need of conservation attention in China,” Owen says. “Unfortunately, this species happens to be a major problem in Japan, threatening the native Japanese giant salamander through competition and hybridization.”

The biologists proposing the creation of a Black List of invasive species say it can be used to prioritize species for action, as required by international policies on biological invasions.

The Convention on Biological Diversity was signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and requires that “By 2020, invasive alien species and pathways are identified and prioritized, priority species are controlled or eradicated, and measures are in place to manage pathways to prevent their introduction and establishment.” The paper about the Black List is published in PLOS Biology.

Humans are, of course, the most dangerous of all species, and could easily be given the No. 1 spot on the Black List.

Many scientists are in agreement that the sheer impact of humans on the planet means we have initiated a new geological era: the Anthropocene — the age of human impact.

For more on this, I recommend “Adventures in the Anthropocene,” by Gaia Vince (published by Chatto and Windus), an epic, global account of our impact on the biosphere.

Rowan Hooper (@rowhoop on Twitter) is the news editor of New Scientist magazine. The second volume of Natural Selections columns translated into Japanese is published by Shinchosha at ¥1,500. The title is “Hito wa Ima mo Shinka Shiteru (The Evolving Human).”

 

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By Jordan Green | March 27, 2014

Shhh… be very, very quiet, we’re hunting zebra mussels. Zebra mussels are an invasive species in many regions surrounded by the Great Lakes in North America. They are invasive because they aren’t naturally part of those ecosystems and although they flourish in their new home, it’s at the cost of the other living organisms in the area.

Zebra mussels starve native plants, fish and other living things out of their home, and because they essentially take over – invade – their new found area, the population grows out of control. Because of their hard shells and their invasive nature, they even have an impact on human populations. They have clogged municipal water systems and turned once popular summer swimming holes into empty beaches because their shells cut our feet. So hunting zebra mussels, or any invasive species, is serious business. But what if you don’t know what a zebra mussel looks like, or even what to do if you find them? If you’ve got a smartphone, you can be an invasive species hunter. Yes, there’s an app for that – and it works on both Android and Apple devices. Bugwood Apps, an American company based in Tifton, Georgia, has created a slew of high-tech apps to measure and monitor forests, natural resources, and to help even the most amateur invasive species hunter track their prey. As invasive species vary by geographic regions, they have created different apps for different parts of North America and for different uses of those natural environments, for example, farming versus municipal species management. The company’s Great Lakes Vegetables app is used by farmers to identify and rid their crops of invasive species which will feed on those veggies, before they make it to your kitchen table. It’s primarily used by sweet corn farmers to keep pests off of their kernels. Invasive species even can affect what you wear. They have an app – the GA Cotton Insect Advisor – which helps American cotton growers deal with stink bug, which feeds on the plants, preventing them from producing the natural soft cloth used in cozy sweaters, socks and other clothing items. They even have an app which helps farmers and other natural resource managers keep wild pigs from eating their crops and just about everything else in sight. It’s called the Squeal on Pigs app. The company is working with national and local governments to stop the spread of invasive species. They are working with the American government’s National Park Service, and created the Great Lakes Early Detection Network (GLEDN) app, which is being used as an early detection and warning system for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to keep invasive species out of those fresh water bodies. Local municipalities are using the company’s technologies to teach their citizens to become expert invasive species hunters. The Ontario government, Canada’s largest province, is working through it’s Ministry of Natural Resources to promote their EDDMapS app. “Preventing invasive species from arriving and becoming established in Ontario is critical in our fight against this growing threat,” said David Orazietti, Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources. “The app will serve as a key prevention tool, helping Ontario to detect and track the spread of invasive species.” There are lots of invasive species – Ontario’s app tracks over 150 of them – and helps people identify them using either an Android or Apple smartphone, with colorful images and detailed descriptions. But once you’ve spotted the invasive species, what do you do? These apps provide useful information to novice and experienced invasive species hunters. From reporting invasive species spotting to local and national governments, to what and when to use to get rid of them, to how to prevent them from invading your turf in the first place. In the case of zebra mussels, simply hosing off the bottom of your boat and draining any excess water from it before entering another water body will prevent the spread of this particular invasive species. They often hitch rides on unsuspecting boaters watercraft. Residents of Ontario, Canada, can go to eddmaps.org/ontario to learn about invasive species in the province, and to download the latest versions of the Android and Apple smartphone apps for spotting and tracking of these invasive species.What do you think? To learn how to hunt invasive species in your area, check out the company’s list of apps: apps.bugwood.org/apps.html

Read more at: http://www.greenerideal.com/lifestyle/0327-got-a-smartphone-you-can-be-an-invasive-species-hunter/ | Greener Ideal

Read more at: http://www.greenerideal.com/lifestyle/0327-got-a-smartphone-you-can-be-an-invasive-species-hunter/ | Greener Ideal

 

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