Paintball guns, copters take aim at miconia

LIHUE (AP) – Officials looking to control invasive species on Kauai are using helicopters and paintball guns to help fight a plant that causes erosion, shades out other species and takes precious rainwater.

The Kauai Invasive Species Committee has been shooting herbicide capsules at miconia trees, which are present on about 300 acres in the Wailua Game Management Area and Wailua State Park, The Garden Island reported.

The method involves firing a capsule onto a tree’s leaves or stem from above. It was invented by James Leary, a specialist with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management at the University of Hawaii.

“I really try to emphasize the surgical nature,” Leary said. “We’re really dispelling the notion that large amounts of herbicides are needed to accomplish a job.”

Leary said he had been supervising use of the method on Kauai, Maui and Oahu. He says he eventually plans to train committee staff to use the technology.

Keren Gundersen, project coordinator for the committee, said the miconia plants are the committee’s top target.

“It has the potential to destroy our entire watershed,” Gundersen said.

Gundersen said that by surveying and treating plants at the same time, the herbicide treatments are improving the odds of eradicating plants before they mature and reproduce.

The committee plans to use the method quarterly.