Battling the Coqui Epidemic

Vickie Kibler examines a coqui frog she captured. (Photo by Brad Ballesteros/WHT)Coqui frogs are rapidly spreading on the Orchid Isle. And in addition to creating extra background noise at monthly Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club meetings, these pests present a problem to orchid growers as well.

To help shed some light on the subject, Vickie Kibler will be giving a presentation on coqui control at the next KDOC meeting on August 13.

Coqui frogs are a native of Puerto Rico and were probably introduced to Hawaii via vegetation of some sort. They are very much at home on the east side of the Big Island and are starting to take over parts of Kona, probably because they were brought over by hopping onto plants.

For example, on one of the KDOC buying trips to the East side, one of the club members found a coqui in an orchid plant she was about to buy.

Kibler is a resident of Kona and is the founder of Kalaoa Coqui Patrol.

“Our ecosystem is based on checks and balances,” she told the West Hawaii Today in May.
“Since there are no natural enemies in Hawaii to the coqui frog, there is no way to keep their population in check,” she said. “Without that balance, they are eating important nutrient and pollinating insects at an alarming rate. In some areas, populations may exceed 10,000 frogs per acre, which consume more than 50,000 insects per night.

“This is an endangerment to native Hawaiian insect populations, including the plant pollinators, and it is causing a direct competition with Hawaii’s native birds.
“The studies also show that due to their reproduction rate, the coqui may serve as an energy sink in native ecosystems where they serve as an additional food source enhancing population levels of rats and mongoose, thereby increasing predation pressure on native forest birds.”

Another problem, Kibler said, is having a law that no one will enforce and most don’t know about. Any person or organization who transports, harbors or imports with the intent to propagate, sell or release the coqui is in violation of state law and may be charged with a class C felony and subject to a minimum fine of $50,000 and maximum fine of $200,000, plus three years in prison.

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