Base brings burner to beetle battle to help prevent spread

An air curtain burner is loaded with palm logs for incineration. Rotting palm trees can become material for coconut rhinoceros beetle nests.

An air curtain burner is loaded with palm logs for incineration. Rotting palm trees can become material for coconut rhinoceros beetle nests.

Story and photo by Lt. j.g. Eric Galassi

Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

The team working to eradicate the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) recently received a new air curtain burner to help assist efforts to prevent the spread of the beetle and eventually eliminate it entirely from the island.

The air curtain burner was purchased by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) but will be operated by personnel from Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), Hawaii at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH).

The CRB was discovered on JBPHH in December 2013 and shortly thereafter a team was formed to eradicate the beetle. This team is comprised of members of the USDA, Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA), NAVFAC Hawaii, JBPHH, University of Hawaii and other organizations.

The air curtain burner is an efficient incinerator that significantly reduces the amounts of ash and other particulates from being released into the environment. While the first one was purchased by the USDA, four more have been purchased by the Navy for use in the CRB removal effort.

The CRB uses mulch and other plant material to make nests for its eggs. To remove larvae and adults in the past, the nests were ground in a tub grinder, which would not efficiently destroy the eggs.

Composting has also been used to treat infested mulch by maintaining it at a high enough temperature to kill any beetles or eggs. The air curtain burner was acquired to completely exterminate nests and remove material that could potentially become a CRB nest.

The CRB has a hard black shell with a horn on its head. Adult beetles are nocturnal and can grow to more than 2 inches in length. The beetle feeds preferentially on coconut palm trees but will also feed on oil palms, other palm species, banana, sugar cane, papaya, sisal and pineapple. The CRB can often kill a palm tree when feeding on it, which makes it a very destructive species for Pacific islands.

Residents can report any sighting of the beetle to the state pest hotline at 643-PEST (643-7378). Information such as physical address and/or a description of where it was found is needed. Pictures of potential CRB may be sent to the following e-mail address: stoprhino@gmail.com.

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Category: News