Coqui numbers dwindle on Oahu
Is it true that we have coqui frogs on Oahu in several areas? It is suspected the military brought them from the Big Island when they moved their vehicles here.
Answer: It looks/sounds like the noisy coqui frogs that continue to drive parts of the Big Island crazy have, for the observable part, been dealt with on Oahu.
And you're mistaken if you believe the military is responsible for the spread of the non-native amphibian to Oahu, Maui and Kauai.
On Oahu the only naturalized area harboring the frogs was an 11-acre parcel in Wahiawa that bordered private, state and federal lands, said Domingo Cravalho, the state Department of Agriculture's Plant Quarantine Branch inspection and compliance section chief.
Thanks to an extensive control program implemented for the past three years, including "habitat alteration" and a systematic spraying of citric acid, "We have not heard any frogs in that area for the past several months -- almost for a year," he said.
Two plant nurseries that were infested in the Waimanalo area also underwent the same type of extensive spraying with citric acid, "and they haven't had any frogs heard calling for several months."
While Cravalho is not yet ready to say the coqui has been eradicated on Oahu, he says everyone is "very optimistic that we've gotten the job done. ... I believe we are at the end ... seeing the fruits of our labors, so to speak."
According to the state Department of Agriculture, coqui frogs, which are native to Puerto Rico but also found in the southeastern United States, are believed to have traveled to the islands via potted plant material from the mainland or Puerto Rico.
It is suspected that the frogs also "hitchhiked" their way from the Big Island to other islands in household potted plants, then moved into naturalized areas, Cravalho said.
He credited the efforts of state, federal and county agencies, working cooperatively through the Coqui Working Group, as well as the private sector, for successfully attacking the problem on Oahu.
However, coquis are still a major problem on the Big Island, with the frogs establishing themselves in the island's varied topographical areas -- near streams, in ravines, in thick heavy brush, etc.
"I'm not saying that the jury is not out in eradicating the frogs on the Big Island, but at this juncture, with available tools that we have, it's more of control, keeping it contained and keeping it from spreading," Cravalho said.
The state also is working with University of Hawaii-Hilo researchers in developing a mobile thermal treatment unit for nursery growers to use before shipping their plants to other islands, Cravalho said.
Nurseries that are infested with coquis now treat their plants with citric acid, which has proved effective in getting rid of the frog. "But citric acid is only as good as it is applied, so it's not foolproof," Cravalho said.
The thermal treatment exposes the frogs to 113-degree Fahrenheit temperatures for five minutes, which "will kill all stages of the frog, including eggs," he said.
"We're looking at also developing and constructing a permanent unit that can be used as a pretreatment for plants leaving Hilo," he said.
Cravalho said there is also a treatment center that is being developed on Oahu. Blueprints of that center will be shared with nursery growers on the Big Island, who will be encouraged to develop their own systems to reduce the risk of spread throughout the wild.
Coqui frogs also are found on Maui and Kauai, with the plan of attack to eradicate smaller populations and at least contain them to certain areas and prevent their expansion.
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