The Coqui Cacophany

Monday Musings from Melinda by LHS Contributor Melinda M.img_9672The Big Island has it all: lava deserts, tropical rain forests, white sand beaches, snow covered mountains. We also have: coqui frogs, rapid ohia death, little red fire ants and dengue fever (well, technically no more). Why?! Why is the best place on Earth for humans also the best place on Earth for pests (Wait. Are those the same thing?)?

When I first moved here from Honolulu, it was so quiet, I could barely sleep. The silence, occasionally interrupted by the sound of palm fronds slapping in the breeze, was overwhelming. Now it has been replaced by the constant cacophony of coqui frogs, an animal the size of your fingernail that sings at the decibel of an airplane.

I remember when there was one lone chirper somewhere in our vegetation. A year later, there were three. The population was so small, we could count them, but unfortunately, we couldn’t find them. Now, on dry summer nights, the air is filled with their high-pitched chirping.

Somehow, the coqui has managed to stay contained on Hawaii Island. As did dengue. For months, my children sprayed themselves silly before school, at soccer and at the beach with sunscreen to “Fight the Bite.” Dengue has passed but we still have Little Red Fire Ants with a bite so severe they can blind your pets! We had them in the house and I can tell you their bites make your butt feel like its on fire. A few hundred dollars later, our house is protected…for a few months.

And now we have ROD, rapid ohia death. Though it may not hurt you directly or immediately, it has the potential to change our lives catastrophically. A fungus that lives in the soil, ROD attacks the tree’s vascular system, essentially strangling it to death. They don’t know how it spreads but since it is a fungus, they know it has the potential to lay dormant for many many years. Just imagine our entire forest…gone. Birds that belong in Hawaii…gone. And all that soil running off in to the ocean. Maybe we could reforest, as the Territory did in the 1930s when goats and cows had denuded the slopes. But a Hawaii without Hawaiian trees? Leis without ohia? It’s a terrifying thought to me.

I really hope each and every one of us who hikes or hunts or goes 4-wheeling in the forest is being pono and washing down their boots, animals and vehicle’s undercarriage with isopropyl alcohol.IMG_9602 (2)So to keep Living Hilo Style, here is the arsenal every Hilo home needs:

  • Citric acid: kills coquis
  • Isopropyl alcohol: kills ROD
  • Soapy water (to clean produce): kills rat lungworm
  • Bug spray: kills dengue
  • Peanut butter: attracts little red fire ants so you can kill them

For more information on how you can protect your family, your pets and our Hawaii Island lifestyle, visit http://www.biisc.org/

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