In Hawaii, Scientists Are Battling Invasive Plants with Herbicide-Shooting Paintball Guns

Paintball gun-wielding researchers have used this Rambo-like approach to reduce some patches on invasive plants by 80 percent

Miconia growing in Hawaii
Miconia growing in Hawaii Forest and Kim Starr

Forget manual weeding and mowing. In Hawaii, researchers are blasting invasive plant species with paint ball guns loaded with herbicide pellets. Called “Herbicide Ballistic Technology,” Hawaii News Now reports, the deadly, explosive balls will help battle miconia, an invasive weed with a foothold throughout the Big Island’s most wild and remote corners. Hawaii News Now describes the invader:

Miconia’s large leaves can block out sunlight for smaller plants, and its shallow root systems can increase erosion. A single miconia plant can produce eight million seeds a year.

The jungly terrain where miconia likes to invade justifies the paintball strategy.

Scientists with the guns are taken up in helicopters, allowing them to accurately and surgically target specific miconia plants in hard to access places while using a minimal amount of herbicide.

In some areas, paintball gun-wielding researchers report to Hawaii News, miconia populations have been reduced by 80 percent by using this Rambo-like approach to habitat management.

Managers working in other parts of the country hoping to blast some kudzu, English ivy or garlic mustard into oblivion will be disappointed to learn that, at least so far, the USDA has only approved that paintball annihilation method for use in Hawaii.

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