Endangered Hawaiian Insects

Grant Recipient Works to Protect Endangered Hawaiian Insects

ARCS Foundation Honolulu Chapter experienced the impact of giving first hand when former ARCS Scholar Will Haines described his work on rare and endangered Hawaiian insects during the nonprofit group’s Heart of Gold Luncheon on Valentine’s Day. Haines, who spearheaded the Pulelehua Project as a junior researcher with Plant and Environmental Protection Science, manages the Hawaiian insect breeding program for the State’s Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Addressing the organization’s annual Heart of Gold fundraiser luncheon, Haines described the 45-day life cycle of the Kamehameha butterfly, from an egg the size of the head of a pin to the showy orange and black adult. In keeping with the Valentine’s theme, he revealed the butterfly’s mating behavior (they get frisky in the evening).

Haines breeds the butterflies at a protected Kawainui Marsh facility and plans to reintroduce them in appropriate areas with steps to mitigate predation by invasive ants. He also described efforts to boost the population of the Orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly, which was placed on the Endangered Species list in 2016. The small dragonfly-like insects don't mate in captivity, so scientists collect eggs to rear in a protected setting before re-release in the wild.

“Many of Hawai‘i’s more than 6,000 unique insects are rare or endangered,” Haines said, “so there is no shortage of endemic arthropods to consider for captive breeding.”

Haines received the Maybelle C. Roth ARCS Scholar Award in Conservation Biology in 2006 while pursuing his PhD in UH Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Since 1974, ARCS Foundation Honolulu Chapter has provided more than $2 million in support for UH Manoa graduate students as part of its effort to ensure U.S. competitiveness in STEM fields.

UH Foundation manages several ARCS Award endowment funds.

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