An Assessment of Wēkiu Bug Populations on Cinder Cones of the Maunakea Volcano, Hawai‘i Informs Habitat Restoration and Conservation Efforts
Jessica Kirkpatrick, Jesse Eiben, Fritz Klasner
University of Hawai'i at Hilo, Hilo, Hawaii


IV. Putting Research into Practice for Thriving 'Åina


The endemic Hawaiian wēkiu bug (Nysius wekiuicola) is a carnivorous scavenger that only inhabits volcanic cinder cones above ~3,500m elevation on Maunakea, Hawai‘i. As a species of conservation concern threatened by invasive species, climate change, and habitat alteration, a greater understanding of wēkiu bug populations and habitat use through time is needed to inform habitat restoration efforts and conservation management decisions. In this study, locations on a high elevation and a lower elevation cinder cone were sampled using attractant traps in a buffered random design six times from June 2016-2017 to examine wēkiu bug distribution patterns within cinder cone habitats and across seasons. A generalized linear mixed model (GLMM) was used to explore the relative importance of cinder cone characteristics (topographic aspect, surficial minerals, and elevation) hypothesized to influence wēkiu bug distributions. Results indicate that wēkiu bugs had a highly aggregated distribution, with up to 40 times higher bug densities at the higher elevation cinder cone, and the density of bugs changed within and between cinder cones throughout the year. Our GLMM indicated that sample month, topographic aspect, and elevation on a cinder cone influences wēkiu bug distributions with abundance increasing with elevation within a cinder cone, and the highest captures are predicted to be on the northeast aspects of the higher elevation cinder cone year-round. We recommend preserving contiguous cinder cone habitats for the persistence of the wēkiu bug and monitoring populations in a random sample design in known or restored habitats to effectively monitor wēkiu bug densities.