"They have significant resources that we never had," he said. "The USDA's taking this very seriously, and they have a big group of people there." But the one breeding site identified so far on Hawaii is "pumping out adults like crazy."
Faced with a fast-breeding, invasive menace, Hawaiian officials are also discussing whether to resort to more advanced biological control mechanisms.
Growers in countries such as the Philippines, where coconuts are still a cash crop, use sawdust laced with a fungus that attacks the coconut rhino beetle in traps and breeding sites; a Malaysian virus that attacks them has been used to control the population in Samoa and Fiji.
But neither measure has been approved by U.S. regulators.
Oishi said those steps are being studied in Hawaii, but will require extensive studies under "very contained conditions." Then they would have to be approved by both state and federal agencies, which will require their own environmental assessments.
In the meantime, the battle against the beetles -- a grubby struggle, fought tree-to-tree and mulch heap-to-mulch heap -- will grind on.
"We will have to be monitoring this project for at least a year, probably more along the lines of three years," Oishi said.