Fighting Foul Frogs with Caffeine

October 12, 2001

On October 1, 2001, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it had approved the use of caffeine to fight the infestation of coqui frogs in Hawaii. Coqui frogs are not native to Hawaii and have no natural enemies on the Islands. The frogs are considered pests because they compete for food with Hawaii's native bird population. The loud mating call of the coqui frog does not help its reputation: according to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, the call of the frog sounds like a lawn mower, table saw, or helicopter.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that interferes with a neurotransmitter in the brain called adenosine. Caffeine also acts at other places in the body to increase heart rate, constrict blood vessels, relax air passages, and affect muscles. An overdose of caffeine is lethal to the coqui frog.

Other animals, including humans, are also at risk from the dangers of caffeine. Therefore, personnel from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture are allowed to use caffeine to control the frogs and they must monitor the effects of the drug in other species. Private pest control operators with the proper restricted pesticide applicator licenses can apply to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture to use caffeine. Homeowners in Hawaii are encouraged to capture frogs by hand and contact the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

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