Maui News

Hawaii to Combat Invasive Fireweed by Introducing Moth

December 17, 2012, 8:47 AM HST
* Updated December 17, 9:05 AM
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Courtesy Photos by Ron Heu, and Walter Nagamine, (Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture).

By Wendy Osher

The Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture has obtained approval from its counterpart at the federal level to release the Arctiidae moth to combat the spread of Fireweed, an invasive pest that is toxic to livestock.

Fireweed is an invasive weed from Madagascar which has infected an estimated 850,000 acres primarily on Maui and Hawaiʻi Island, government officials said.

Authorities say the species has no natural predators in Hawaiʻi, is resistant to drought, and if left unchecked, could spread to an additional 1.5 million acres in the next 10 years.

Hawaii’s cattle industry has been combating Fireweed for the last decade. Due to the scope of the spread, authorities say chemical sprays have not proven feasible or economical.


“I want to express my gratitude to the state Department of Agriculture and to the USDA-APHIS for working together to approve the release of this bio-control moth that will help to control this invasive flower,” said US Senator Daniel Inouye in a statement last week.


“It is my hope that this effort will help to ensure that Hawaii’s cattle industry will continue to thrive and help the state move toward greater food self-sufficiency,” said Sen. Inouye.

In addition to the Arctiidae moth introduction, the state also continues to research other animals that could be used to further disrupt the spread of the invasive Fireweed.

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