Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Friday, November 26, 1999

Endangered bug
should just say no

I'M all for protecting endangered species, especially if they taste good. But the latest Hawaii critters to be put on the federal endangered species list include a bug that seems to have developed a bad habit.

You can't walk 5 feet in any direction in Hawaii without tripping over (or squashing) an endangered species. The islands have more endangered species than anywhere else in the world, except all those inaccessible jungles where scientists haven't even discovered thousands of unknown species and therefore don't know whether they are endangered or not.

There are so many endangered species in Hawaii that if they ever got together for a convention, they could take over the state government, if not the world.

But endangered species can't get together for conventions because they are all individually hunkered down in their personal little micro-environments and if they left them they'd get sun stroke, run over by a tourist bus, or both.

Hawaii's endangered species come in two flavors, animal or vegetable. There are no endangered minerals, to my knowledge.

The endangered vegetable species include the ko'oloa'ua, or red ilima, a specimen which recently contrived to place itself directly in the path of a new highway in Kapolei.

Endangered species are known to pop up in places they shouldn't be, like future mall sites, rivers about to be dammed and trees about to be chopped down.

NOW, state engineers have to figure out what to do with the obstinate red ilima plant, a spritz of herbicide not being under consideration. Rerouting the highway around the shrub, adding only several million tax dollars to the project, is a likely outcome. You can't just dig up and plant an endangered species somewhere else because they get moody, don't like the view, etc.

There are many bugs on the endangered species list because, well, there are many bugs out there. A religious figure once asked a scientist what he knew about God. "He loves beetles," the scientist replied. God must, considering there are more than 10,000 species of beetles crawling around compared to fewer than 600 species of animals that weigh over 100 pounds. Insects rule the world (and most of my house).

One of Hawaii's three new additions to the endangered species is a snail. A conservation biologist applauded the selection, pointing out that snails are easily overlooked, which accounts for why so many of them end up smashed on the soles of shoes.

The eyeless Kauai cave spider also made the list. You have to wonder whether the spider would be endangered today if it had not given up its eyes through evolutionary adaptation, right?

My problem is with the sphinx moth making the list. Now, scientists thought that this bug could ONLY survive by eating a certain plant, called an "aiea." Lately, they've found it munching on a tobacco tree. For real.

This seems to be irresponsible behavior for an endangered species candidate. Didn't anyone conduct a random drug test? Who knows what other substances this moth is abusing?

If this creature is going to receive federal protection, it seems that he should make a little personal effort to stay clean. A bug eats a tobacco plant one day, could be doing heroin the next. You can't save a species that doesn't want to save itself.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802
or send E-mail to or

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