Native Animals: Insects and Snails
When we talk about native animals, most people don't give insects very much attention or respect. However, Hawai'i has the most spectacular evolved native insect faunas (animal groups) on Earth, with an estimated 10,000 native species - 95% of which are endemic. Insects were significant in Hawaiian culture. Some served as food, dragonfly nymphs were used in rituals, and certain insects were honored as 'aumakua (spirit guardians). (Atlas of Hawai'i)

Insects and Snails uses text and photos from the Atlas of Hawai‘i Third Edition by Sonia P. Juvik; James O. Juvik and Thomas R. Paradise. It also relies on Feathered Gods and Fishhooks by Patrick V. Kirch.

The endemic predatory caterpillar Eupithecia staurophragma, eating an endemic pomace fly.
Photo by W. Mull Used with permission
Dragonfly - of all the insects that dispersed
to the islands, only the damselfly and the
dragonfly did not evolve flightless forms.
Photo by Dan Petr
Photo by Dan Petr
Pomace Fly - with nearly 1000 endemic species, the Hawaiian pomace flies
rival the other native animals in adaptive
vigor. Photo by W. Mull. Used with permission
Koa Bug - the koa bug is the
largest and most noticeable
native true bug. Its hosts are koa
and 'a'ali'i. (Atlas of Hawai'i) Photo by W. Mull.
Used with permission.
The insect faunas of Hawai'i, like the other native plants and animals, are undergoing major changes. These changes are a result of invasive alien species and the alteration of habitat by human activities. There is still a widespread lack of knowledge about the biology of native insect species.
(Atlas of Hawai'i)
If insects get no respect, then what do Hawaiian land and tree snails get? Extinct! Out of over 1000 endemic species, most native Hawaiian snails are now extinct. The native Hawaiian land and tree are inconspicuous by choice, with the only exception being the kahuli or pupu kanioe, the "singing snails of legends". However, these were not known to live in the ahupua'a of Nawiliwili Bay. A long juvenile (immature) life and low birthrate have made the remaining native land snails vulnerable to alien threats and loss of habitat. (Atlas of Hawai'i)
Above, dune remains of native snails

One promising archaeological technique uses the remains of very small land snails excavated from archaeological sites to get valuable clues about the change in local environments over time.(Patrick V. Kirch)
Photo by David Boynton
Today, the main threats to native animals are alien species and the loss of habitat.
Map and chart from Atlas of Hawai'i
at risk vs. not at risk
endemic species
Our tour of native animals in the ahupua'a of Nawiliwili Bay would not be complete without a visit to the native stream animals. "Ono, though, whenever you eat em, ono--tasty. I put in a bit of salt, and ti leaf. Oh, that aroma is something, that taste!" (from Pacific World's Ha'ena by RDK Herman)
Created June 2001