Maui News

Fireweed Moth to be Released on Maui in Biocontrol Effort

March 12, 2013, 7:41 AM HST
* Updated March 12, 10:17 AM
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Dr. Mohsen Ramadan, exploratory entomologist for HDOA, releases moths from their enclosure. Courtesy photo.

Dr. Mohsen Ramadan, exploratory entomologist for HDOA, releases moths from their enclosure during a planned biocontrol release on Hawai’i Island in February 2013. Courtesy photo.

By Wendy Osher

An informational meeting will be held on Wednesday on Maui to present plans for the release of a natural enemy of the invasive fireweed plant.

The plant is considered toxic to most livestock and has invested hundreds of thousands of acres of Maui pastureland.

The Hawai’i Department of Agriculture will host the meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March, 13, at the Hannibal Tavares Community Center in Pukalani.

Fireweed, also known as Madagascan Ragwort, has daisy-like flowers. The plant, however, is highly toxic and can kill cattle and horses. Long term, state officials say it will even kill sheep and goats which are known to feed on it.

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Fireweed infestations are so extensive on Maui and Hawaii Island that, state officials say, other control methods are cost-prohibitive and impractical.

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Authorities with the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture have been studying the Madagascan fireweed moth, a natural predator of the plant, for more than 13 years.

After reviews at state and federal levels, final approval for release was granted in December 2012, with a release of the moths already implemented on Hawai’i Island.

The planned release on Maui will represent a collaborative effort between island ranchers, the University of Hawai’i, and the HDOA.

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