Throughout its decade of management, the Office of Mauna Kea Management has worked collaboratively with State and Federal agencies to ensure proper management of the Wēkiu bug. In addition, OMKM funded studies to learn more about the bug which has resulted in developing better methods for protecting this unique species. Through active involvement with many agencies (UH Manoa, UH Hilo, Bishop Museum, DLNR, USFWS), a cohesive group of specialists have guided methods of surveys and data use that directly addresses data gaps called for in the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved Comprehensive Management Plan, and Natural Resources Management and Public Access plans which were approved in 2009 and 2010, respectfully.
In the Fall of 2011, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) removed the bug as a candidate listing for Federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, "The removal of the Wēkiu bug is based on the successful management of the summit of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaiʻi. Survey work resulted in more than doubling the number of sites where the species is found. The protection and monitoring of the Wēkiu bug provided through the management plans for Mauna Kea has precluded the need to list this species."
|Jesse Eiben and Jaco Le Roux atop Mauna Kea|
This is a recovery success story we can all celebrate.
Jesse Eiben is considered the foremost expert on the Wēkiu bug, having studied the bug's life history and population genetics since 2005. His specific interest is in the evolution of the Wēkiu bug, its adaptation to such an extreme environment as is found on Mauna Kea, and how this type of basic scientific information can be applied to conservation actions.
OMKM provided funding to Dr. Daniel Rubinoff in the University of Hawaii's Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences department, and Eiben was selected as a University of Hawaiʻi Manoa graduate student to study the Wēkiu bug's life cycle and habitat requirements. After six years of study, the research lead to a better understanding of the bug's habitat requirements, including a physiological and population growth model showing a reason for the bug's continual persistence on cinder cones tied to overlapping generations growing in the thermally buffered loose cinder that comprises cinder cones.
Extensive information on the Wēkiu bug is available through Eiben's research paper in the Journal of Insect Conservation, entitled, Life history and captive rearing of the Wēkiu bug (Nysius wekiuicola, Lygaeidae), an alpine carnivore endemic to the Mauna (Eiben and Rubinoff, 2010), his PhD dissertation from 2012, and an upcoming publication currently in review in Conservation Biology. Also, there is a general overview of his research available online from the Hawaii Conservation Conference in 2012 (http://vimeo.com/57490005)
About the Wēkiu Bug
The Wēkiu (Hawaiian for "top" or "summit") bug (Nysius wekiuicola) is the best studied invertebrate on the summit of Mauna Kea. It was first recognized as a new species in 1979 and described in 1983 by Ashlock and Gagne. Wēkiu bug adults are the size of a grain of rice and reside where cinders are found on the summit. They use their straw-like beaks to draw nourishment from dead and dying insects in the aeolian drift.