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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ways to eradicate coqui weighed

By Peter Sur
Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Chemicals used to control the coqui frog include a solution of acidic calcium sulfate, which is nontoxic.

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Hawai'i County Councilwoman Brenda Ford wants to get the ball rolling on approving baking soda as a pesticide for use against coqui frogs.

Meeting as the Environmental Management Committee, County Council members listened to a presentation from various scientists on the different methods and chemicals that people are using across the Big Island.

The frogs, native to Puerto Rico, have become widely established throughout the island's lower elevations. High concentrations of the chirping males disturb the sleep of countless residents and visitors.

Mark Munekata, a volunteer with the Hawai'i Island Economic Development Board and former research technician with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, passed to the council two large jars containing three live frogs each.

"The main thing is the public needs to be trained in using any of these methods, and all," he said. "Because one thing that the coqui frog has shown is that it is adaptable. Once you think you have got it under control and you understand it, it does something else and throws you totally for a loop."

Residents have been experimenting for years ways to capture or kill the frogs, attacking them with chemicals, powders, sprays and traps of all kinds. Members of the public testified that chickens, baking soda and neighborhood cooperation were all effective.

Several of the speakers praised the "Agent Green" developed by orchardist David Davis. This solution of acidic calcium sulfate, he said, is nontoxic, half the cost of citric acid and approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Citric acid is the only chemical approved for use against the frogs. Calcium carbonate baking soda is not, but the FDA classifies both substances as "generally recognized as safe."

"Baking soda will control the frog. It'll also kill your grass," Munekata said. "It's not the silver bullet, but it's something that the public understands."