The Coqui Frog Thing
July 5, 2009
The coqui frog issue is the topic of this Update. The reason we're going to devote a whole page to this little frog is that the little frog has become a nuisance of monumental proportions. Or not, depending on your personal sensibilities. And whether or not you happen to be hearing impaired.
Just in case the whole coqui thing is news to you, please google "hawaii coqui," for some enlightenment. There's more info there than you'll want to read.
The rate at which these things proliferate is unbelievable. For example, we used to have one or two at a time on our ¾ acre property, and we'd go out and take care of them immediately. Then the first four months of this year brought almost daily non-stop rain, which is a huge problem for those of us trying to keep them under control. First, you can't spray the little buggers when it is raining, and second, that gave them four months to reproduce undisturbed, and reproduce they did.
By the time the rains let up, we had such incredible infestations all over our yard that we thought we had been defeated. It really was depressing.
We decided that the only way we could even begin to tackle the problem was to eliminate much of the beautiful tropical planting of which we had been taking such loving care. That hurt. We cut and trimmed and pruned until we could see through everywhere. Our beloved privacy was gone, a compromise we had to live with. To maintain any semblance of control just in our yard, we have to spray nearly every night. Sometimes we get up in the middle of the night to get one screaming frog right outside our bedroom window.
OK, the flip side of the story is that a lot of people would insist we are nuts. They say that they "don't even hear the frogs anymore," and I wish we could rationalize some sort of a way to do that ourselves. But to us, this screeching 90 decibel noise that is so loud and abrasive that it is difficult to carry on a conversation, is not easily ignored.
There are indeed many areas now where there is simply no way of controlling them anymore. They multiply so fast that it is just impossible to get ahead of them. They have no predators here, so they are free to take over.
There are several ways to control them in small infestations. The best one, and one that the County used to help us with, is to spray a solution of citric acid in water. Then the County decided they needed the money for other things (like the County building remodel in Hilo which they claim is "the most expensive remodel in State history"). So we started buying citric acid from our local farm and garden suppliers at $50 for a 100 lb. Bag. It gets mixed at 1.28 lb. per gallon of water, so it became prohibitively expensive to use it for large-scale spraying.
Next we hear that agricultural lime in water also worked, but not as well. It was a lot cheaper, though, so we used it anyway and in the process, our garden acquired an ugly white residue everywhere. No matter, because now it is illegal to use lime to control coqui! Interesting, since it is quite OK to use it on your garden for the normal need to alter soil pH. Oh well, back to citric acid, right? Wrong. As soon as the suppliers found out citric acid was our only available control, the price doubled. Now it's really out of reach for coqui control. We still buy it (at over $100 a bag) just for our little hand sprayers.
We've also read that baking soda is an effective control, but there is little info available yet. And as soon as it becomes available, the price of baking soda will no doubt climb to the point that we won't be able to afford to by bread anymore.
The best solution is to develop a state of consciousness that will allow you to ignore the coqui. Some people use earplugs at night, which although uncomfortable, seem to help.
The coqui are listed as an invasive species here now, so maybe somebody will eventually take this issue seriously. The coqui have been found to eat not only thousands of insects that formerly fed the natural predators that kept our ecosystem in balance, but also geckos and even honeybees. Our only hope, it seems, is that some enterprising (or lucky) biologist might discover something that can be sprayed over large areas that will interfere with the coqui's reproductive process.
One can only hope. In the meanwhile, this little pest has done serious harm here already and the harm is escalating exponentially. Their presence now has to be noted on real estate disclosures, and Realtors are routinely advising their clients to visit prospective properties at night to see if they can tolerate the noise. Some areas have such massive infestations that it is hard to imagine anyone buying a home there.
The coqui have now solidly spread to Maui, Kaua'i and there are even some on O'ahu. The hitchhike on cars, potted plants, even in luggage, so it is unlikely that anywhere in the Islands will not be infested eventually. One was spotted hopping out of a suitcase that arrived in California, so anywhere in the world is their fair game. They can survive for days with no food or water, so hitchhiking is an effective mode of travel for them.
Aloha Nui!
You are also welcome to check in to the Affordable Paradise Blog and talk story about your concerns. You can read some of the many postings there and learn from the conversations of others, too. You can also go on konaweb.com and punaweb.org and either participate in the discussions or just eavesdrop for a while!
We wish you all the best, and never forget to
Please Live Aloha!
Mahalo for "listening."
Skip Thomsen & Ohana
Updated 7/5/09