11 October 2023

Invasive Pests

CTAHR conference brings together like-minded collaborators

Invasive Pests

By Roshan Manandhar

With our beloved island home beset by invasive pests of all shapes and sizes, what is the best way to pool our collective knowledge and resources so we can effectively combat these challenges?

A two-day conference on invasive pests is a good start. Held August 9 -10 at the Blaisdell Center in Honolulu, the 2023 Invasive Pest Conference featured 27 talks on a diversity of invasive pests ranging from weeds to agricultural and landscape pests, as well as climate change and biological control – all presented by CTAHR researchers, Extension faculty, and experts from other partner agencies. 

It was great having keynote speaker Phillip Andreozzi, USDA Invasive Species Coordinator. Phillip shared his experience and insights of invasive species as well as collaboration opportunities throughout the Pacific Basin.  

Many talks focused on policies, implementation, achievements, and future directions of invasive species management. The first covered the Hawaiʻi Interagency Biosecurity Plan (2017-2027), in which 39% of action plans (147) being “completed” or “ongoing in perpetuity,” with appropriate steps to move actions forward. This was followed by an overview of the Hawaiʻi-Pacific Weed Risk Assessment, an introduction to the Prevention Priority and Limited Distribution, and details on a statewide project to engage haumana (students) in grades K-12 in legislative efforts that support native species conservation in Hawaiʻi. 

Next, presentations highlighted the impacts of climate change on invasive species: Hawaiʻi’s native forest birds experiencing drastic declines due to climate change leading to greater densities of its primary avian malaria vector; and the Pacific Regional Invasive Species and Climate Change Management Network. 

A session on snails – species diversity and surveys of invasive terrestrial (including freshwater) species -- along with a review of known pests from poorly studied groups (non-insect, invertebrates) that have become established in the islands. Another speaker addressed a yellow crazy ants control program to conserve natural habitats on Johnston Atoll. Other talks included vertebrate invasive pests: ungulate species across the Hawaiian Islands, and a new self-resetting trap, AT-220, for controlling small vertebrates (rats, mongoose, etc.) in our ecosystem.

Sessions on the coconut rhinoceros beetle and coffee pests were the next attraction: CRB response, the Master Gardeners Program effort to involve the public in CRB prevention, and recent tools such as the Rhino Cam and aerial application of insecticide. Improved IPM of the coffee berry borermay depend on the introduction of a parasitoid Phymastichus coffea. Three presentations on coffee leaf rust covered the past two years: infestation, research at Kona Research and Extension Center, and management with fungicides.

Topics in the final session included fighting Rapid Ōhiʻa Death, the statewide diamondback moth program that uses insecticide rotation to mitigate crop loss, ineffective organic herbicides for controlling Devil weed, a biological control agent that controls fireweed and spreads naturally to Cape ivy, factors in  environmentally safe biological controls, and finally, communication and networking through mini-conferences to reach the many stakeholders in Hawaiʻi and beyond.

The conference was well attended, with more than 70 participants, mostly from CTAHR, State and Federal Agencies, Invasive Species Committees, Industries and Botanical gardens, non-profit organizations, etc. Apart from learning a ton, participants had a good environment to communicate and share knowledge on invasive pest concerns. This conference included the Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Council, Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species, and Oʻahu Invasive Species Committee.

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