After 30 years of study, a new butterfly may offer hope for control of miconia in Hawaii.
The Hawaii State Department of Agriculture has completed a Draft Environmental Assessment for release of Eusalasia chyrsippe, the “miconia butterfly,” which is native to Costa Rica and is a natural enemy of miconia trees.
Miconia, considered one of Hawaii’s worst noxious weeds, is a major threat to our forests and watersheds and has no natural predators here. Caterpillars of the miconia butterfly feed aggregate densely and feed on miconia leaves, controlling the tree’s invasiveness.
Decades of study have shown that the caterpillars of this butterfly are highly host-specific, feeding only on miconia and its close relatives in the melastome family, including Clidemia (all of which are non-native weeds in Hawaii).
Plants tested and the amount of feeding seen in caterpillar trials are shown in the figure below.
The State is proposing use of this butterfly, Eusalasia chyrsippe, for statewide miconia control. If approved, the first releases are planned to occur on Big Island and Maui.
The Draft Environmental Assessment is available for review at the Hawai`i Department of Health’s Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) website at: http://oeqc2.doh.hawaii.gov/The_Environmental_Notice/2020-04-23-TEN.pdf
Public comments may be submitted to OEQC by May 26, 2020 at that website.
Once the public comments are compiled, the issue will go to the HDOA Plant and Animals Advisory Committee for review and approval, then forwarded to the Hawai`i Board of Agriculture for final approval. USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will also conduct a review of the EA to decide whether to issue a permit for the release of the miconia butterfly.
More info from HDOA here
Read the full EA study here