Aloha Kakou! Strawberry Guava was introduced to Hawai’i in 1825. Like other plants and animals, it has grown.
Grown into a controversy. There is a growing effort by the U.S Forestry department and others to control the spread of this invasive species. The latest effort to control the spread of the Strawberry Guava is the proposal to introduce a form of biological control, or biocontrol. In the case of strawberry guava, a promising biocontrol is the Brazilian scale insect, Tectococcus ovatus. The insect sucks the sap from the leaves of the strawberry guava and causes the leaf to bubble up and resemble a scale like cover, thus the name scale insect. It eventually destroys the leaf and slows the growth and spread of the strawberry guava. At least, in theory.
There have been other species that have been introduced to Hawai’i to control other pests. Like the Mongoose was introduced to control the rat population. That failed miserably. While the assurances by those in favor of releasing an insect into Hawai’i delicate ecosystem will not harm native Hawaiian plants, once it’s done, there’s no turning back. The study has been on going for years and a draft environmental impact has been released. Even though the preliminary data shows this will work, there are many concerns.
The insect may very well do the job the biologist say it will do. However, are the risks really going to produce the rewards? Are we willing to take that chance. What if it doesn’t work? How do you rid Hawai’i of the biocontrol? You cannot get a do-over after it’s done.
In today’s opinion column in the Tribune-Herald, Hilo’s local newspaper, a writer alleges three facts by one of the researchers findings: 1) Release of any biocontrol should be considered state wide. 2) Uncertainty of the results. 3) Once released, it’s irreversible and permanent.
Is the arguments only one sided by proponents only? Reading the U.S Forestry website, it seems the decision to release the biocontrol insect, Tectococcus ovatus, is going to happen despite the concerns of local citizens. The U.S Forestry gives a compelling argument, read their FAQ’s here.
Na Pua’a ‘Auli’i
The effects of the spread of strawberry guava can be seen everywhere on the island. Especially on Hwy 11 heading into Hilo where some cute piglets are living among the strawberry guava in the center median.
How many times have we’ve been told that either some perceived problem or crisis de jour needs to addressed now. Just like climate change, or global warming, whichever you want to call it, activists rush to do something about it, now. The activists create a dominant mood or emotional tone of urgency. A compelling desire to act upon something due to some abnormal stress whether or not it really exists at all. They convince government at all levels to do something about it, NOW!
Consider how our government is behaving by passing laws to fix our economy, even when members of the Congress haven’t even read the legislation they are passing. When you make a purchase, especially a major expenditure, like an automobile or a house, you spend some time researching what you want. You look for the value in the purchase. When you shop for food, you look for value, price, and quality.
I’m not willing to bet on a two legged horse race. Let alone releasing another non-native species into our environment. From a long term perspective, eventually the released biocontrol agent will evolve. But into what?
Farmers, orchid growers, and every other agriculturist has a lot to be concerned by introducing any new species in Hawai’i. There has to be another solution other than releasing a non-native insect into Hawai’i.
Unlike GMO products, this takes on a whole dynamic.
Resolutions have been introduced into the Hawaii State Legislature requesting a 5 year moratorium on the proposed use of an imported scale insect as a biocontrol agent to slow down the spread of strawberry guava or waiwai. The legislation – HCR249, HR218 and SCR157, SR108 (click on the bills to read the text) have introduced into the 2009 Legislative Session. So far no hearings have been scheduled to date. The Conservation Council of Hawaii has additional information, including a fact sheet on biocontrol of strawberry guava. The Pacific Southwest Research Station of the USDA Forest Service also has information on biocontrol of strawberry guava.
I just have a bad feeling about this.
Dancing our way to Dinner
Chicken and Mozzarella Ravioli with a Garden Salad and Garlic Bread Sticks