After the Introduction below, the groups covered on this page are:


An introductory book is Hawaiian Insects and their Kin by F. Howarth and W. Mull published in 1992. It is a short book that summarizes the various groups and has chapters on the origin and evolution of Hawaiian insects.

For an overview and link to resources available for Hawaiian insects Karl Magnacca has a nice website and webpage: His excellent photos are on this page:

The University of Hawaiʻi Insects of Hawaiʻi series (17 volumes with the first in 1948) can be accessed here:

Hawaiian Arthropod Checklist Database:

Hawaiian insect names:

The Proceedings of the Hawaiian entomological society from 1905 to present is available here:

The University of Hawaiʻi has an insect museum and they have digitized their collection or at least a portion:

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation can be searched here:

The Pacific Fish and Wildlife Service Arthropod page has a list and links to information on endangered and threatened species:

Some interesting and informative insect community sampling videos and s brief discussion of community assembly is available here:

Hylaeus (yellow-faced) bees

This group of bees are native to Hawaiʻi and are another case of extensive radiation of 60+ species, apparently from a single species colonization:

The Wikipedia Hylaeus page has information on the genus and links to 16 species pages from around the world, of which includes 7 species from Hawaiʻi are included that were listed as endangered in 2016 (see below for species listing):

Photo source:
Credit: Jason Graham, FWS

A paper by K. Magnacca Conservation Status of the Endemic Bees of Hawai‘i, Hylaeus (Nesoprosopis) (Hymenoptera: Colletidae) in Pacific Science in 2007 is available at: A short excerpt from that document is below.

“The 60 species of native Hylaeus bees in the Hawaiian Islands are important pollinators in native ecosystems, but they have been almost completely ignored in conservation studies. …Five  species  have  not  been  collected  recently  from  one  or  more  islands  from which  they  are  historically  known,  seven  are  restricted  to  endangered  habitat, 10 are considered to be very rare and potentially endangered, and 10 have not been  collected  recently  and  could  be  extinct.”

The endangered species listing finally came in 2016:

The table from the FWS 2016 listing document with species names and islands where found is below. Further listing information on each species at the FWS site can be found by entering individual species names at:

A published document in 2013 by K. Magnacca and C. King evaluating 23 Hylaeus species titled Assessing the presence and distribution of 23 Hawaiian yellow-faced bee species on lands adjacent to military installations on O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island is available here:

A video on Yellow-faced bees:

Other Bees and Wasps

Hawai‘i’s native Hymenoptera fauna includes non-social bees and wasps but no native ants. A DLNR 2015 SWAP factsheet is here: A snip from the factsheet is below.

The factsheet provides a brief summary of the group. It states that the genus with the most species is Sierola (Bethylidae) with 180 described and an estimated 400–500 total species! And this brief description: “Wasps in the genus Sierola are found throughout the Indo-Pacific region, but over 90 percent of the known species are endemic to Hawai‘i. They are small, black wasps found primarily in wet and mesic forest.”

Several species in each of the genera Hylaeus (Colletidae), Ectemnius (Sphecidae), and Nesodynerus (Vespidae), including H. chlorostictus, H. difficilis, H. pubescens, E. nesiotes, E. polynesialis, N. peles, and N. scoriaceus, are common and relatively abundant.

Some information on the group and details on some individual species from a 1926 publication by F. Williams – Notes on the Habits of the Bees and Wasps of the Hawaiian Islands – is available here:

Damselflies and Dragonflies (Order: Odonata)

This group is known in Hawaiʻi as the Pinao. It includes a group of damselflies in a single genus and the literature reports two species of dragonfly,.


Megalagrion, a genus of damselflies in the family Coenagrionidae has 23 known species according to the Wikepedia page, all of which are endemic to Hawaiʻi. The 23 species are listed on the Wikipedia page, some with links to IUCN Redlist assessments:

A DLNR 2015 SWAP factsheet is here: A snip from the factsheet is below.

A 1996 book (Hawaiian Damselflies: A Field Identification Guide by Polhemus and Asquith is currently out of print:

From a Marguerite Butler (UH) presentation in 2016

The map above has 25 species shown and their radiation pattern. The Butler lab page on damselflies is here:

The molecular systematics and adaptive radiation were studied in a paper by Jordan et al. (2003) here:

Many of the species are restricted to single islands or areas. They live in diverse habitats including streams, plant leaf axils, waterfall faces, and even damp plant litter. About 12 million years ago, the single colonist Megalagrion damselfly that evolved to the 23 species arrived in Hawai’i: This website also has photos of several species.

Information on the IUCN red-listed species are here:

Six species of the 23 species are listed endangered with descriptions here:

Additional information are in the USFWS species listing final rules for the six species that are listed:

M. nesiotes and M. pacificum

M. leptodemas, M. nigrohamatum nigrolineatum, and M. oceanicum

M. xanthomelas

Photos of several species of Megalagrion by Karl Magnacca, including the nymph of M. oahuense in the leaf axil of Freycinetia (ieie) can be seen here:

Excellent photos of the blackline damselfly by Nate Yuen are here:

Hawaiian damselfly art by Reuben Wolff is here:

There are five microhabitat types that damselflies use in Hawaiʻi: stream, pool, seep, plant and terrestrial as recognized field scientists and taxonomists (Polhemus & Asquith, 1996). An interesting adaptation to a more terrestrial environment is shown by Megalagrion koelense which breeds in leaf pockets of water (phytotelmata) of native plants (Astelia menziesiana and Freycinetia arborea).

A study on the evolution of color variation and sexual dimorphism in Hawaiian damselflies is here: Study of the eyes of Hawaiian damselflies in a paper (Scales and Butler, 2015) indicate that variation in visual performance results from changes in eye geometry and size and that the changes are likely adaptive to differences in microhabitat: Further investigation on the importance of light are in this paper (Henry et al. 2018) Damselflies that prefer dark habitats illustrate the importance of light as an ecological resource that is here:

The status and distribution of damselflies on Oahu (2007) is shown here:

Damsels in distress: a review of the conservation status of Hawaiian Megalagrion damselflies by D. Polhemus (1994, abstract only) is here:

A possible place for the public to see some of the damselflies may be Kaluanui Natural Area Reserve as described here:


The literature reports two species of dragonflies in Hawaiʻi. The existence of one of the species is a bit of a mystery with virtually no information readily available. The single prominent species is the endemic giant Hawaiian dragonfly (Anax strenuous), an endemic, with a reported wingspan up to 15 centimeters (6 inches), and it can be seen quite readily. A short description is here: Nate Yuen has some amazing photos of this species: A further description is here: and the NatureServe page is here:

The other species is Blackburn’s dragonfly Nesogonia blackburni, also endemic, and the NatureServe page is here: There seems to be little information about this species. NatureServe classifies the status of both dragonflies as “Vulnerable”.

Pomace Flies (Drosophilids)

Although introduced on another page [link] key links and further information on this unique group with such an amazing evolutionary radiation in Hawaiʻi is provided on this page.

A DLNR 2015 SWAP factsheet on the pomace fly group can be found within the appendix of the full SWAP report (starting on p. 7-306, pdf page 518; note that this factsheet is not available on the DLNR website as a separate document with a link): A snip from the factsheet is below.

The SWAP factsheet has a very informative summary of the group and some key references. It introduces the group as follows: “This large radiation accounts for 10 percent of all Hawaiian insects and is the best-studied native Hawaiian lineage. Extensive investigations into the taxonomy, genetics, ecology, and evolutionary biology of Hawaiian Drosophilidae have been made over the past 50 years (Hardy 1965; Spieth 1980).

The Hawaiian Drosophilidae is the oldest lineage of native plants or animals known and is estimated to have colonized the Hawaiian islands about 25 million years ago (Russo et al. 1995).”

Current estimates of the number of endemic species in Hawaiʻi is 1,000 plus (

A summary of the Drosophila story and the extraordinary radiation of this genus in Hawaiʻi is here: A quote from the document: “approximately 800 species of flies belonging to the genera Drosophila and Scaptomyza exist in the Hawaiian islands—about a quarter of the worldwide total and far more than are found in a comparable area anywhere else on earth.”

The website also describes the story of Hawaiʻi’s Drosophila. It “began several million years ago. Most likely, one solitary fertilized female, carried by wind for thousands of miles, landed safely somewhere in the Hawaiian archipelago. From that single, genetic ancestor, a population of flies evolved here that today numbers in the hundreds. Five hundred and eleven to be exact with another four or five hundred in collections waiting to be described and named. Dr. Kaneshiro and others believe that eventually there will be over one thousand species of Drosophila listed… Hawaiian Drosophila are considered to be the world’s supreme examples” of adaptive radiation.”

Another analysis of the evolutionary history is here: One point concerning taxonomy is that there is evidence for two drosophilid lineages endemic to the islands, the genera Drosophila and also Scaptomyza.

Individual factsheets for each of the 14 species that have been designated endangered species and 6 species not yet listed are available in the 2015 DLNR SWAP. A FWS Recovery Outline for 12 Hawaiian Picture-wing Flies (August 2006) is here:

An analysis of sexual selection is Speciation in the Hawaiian “Drosophila”: Sexual Selection Appears to Play an Important Role, K. Kaneshiro (1988): (not available for free).

A 2019 study by Eldon et al. shows how divergence can occur along a fine spatial scale and with implications for climate change:

An interesting story on Drosophila was described in the Maui News newspaper in a 2017 article: The article describes some information about an exploration trip: “Fifty years ago, California biologist Richard Warner led a team of 28 scientists and local guides to explore and discover the scientific riches of the pristine upper Kipahulu Valley, a rainforest ecosystem”.

The article goes on to describe some of the interesting facts about the group as explained by the Hawiian expert Keneth Kaneshiro. These include their varied and unique locations where they lay their eggs, since limited fleshy fruit was available. He noted the Hawaiian fruit fly is 10 times larger than the typical non-native mango-infesting fruit fly and has a longer lifespan. He stated: “We have the largest drosophila population in size and number” in the world, Kaneshiro said. A total of 550 species have already been named and described and another 250 to 300 are in the lab awaiting description.” He conservatively estimated that there are 1,000 species of the Hawaiian drosophila.

A review of the endemic Hawaiian Drosophilidae and their Ecological Associations and Host plants by K. Magnacca et al. in Zootaxa 1728: 1–58 (2008) is here: In it he state that the Hawaiian Drosophilidae is one of the best examples of rapid speciation in nature with about 1,000 species of endemic drosophilids that have evolved since a single colonist arrived over 25 million years ago. A number of mechanisms, including ecological adaptation, sexual selection, and geographic isolation, have been proposed to explain the evolution of this hyperdiverse group of species. He concludes that associations with types of substrates (bark, leaves, flowers) are more evolutionarily conserved than associations with host plant families.

High-quality photos of Hawaiian Drosophila are here:

Flightless Flies

Hawai‘i has more species of flightless flies per land area than any place on Earth. The blog atʻi has the following description. In just one group, the long legged flies (the family Dolichopodidae), there are 15 flightless species known worldwide and Hawai‘i has 9 of them. Four of the others are from the cold and windy islands of the subantarctic and New Zealand. Losing wings or having them reduced to thin strips or small pads is known throughout other winged insect groups, and it is thought that flightlessness evolved in relatively hostile environments: like high altitudes with strong winds where flying might get you caught in a strong wind and blow you away; or on small islands where flying is not necessary to find the resources you need to survive. Hawai‘i has both of these situations.

Other Flies

As listed in the 2015 DLNR SWAP Hawaiʻi has over 2,000 endemic species of true flies:

Of the many species in Hawaiʻi the study by Goodman et al. in 2016 ( states: The family Dolichopodidae forms two of the four largest evolutionary radiations in the Hawaiian Islands across all flies: Campsicnemus (183 spp) and the Eurynogaster complex (66 spp). Both genera have Wikipedia pages for more information, including worldwide.

Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths)

A DLNR 2015 SWAP factsheet is here: A snip from the factsheet is below.

A list of Lepidoptera of Hawaiʻi is here:


The genus Hypsocoma is endemic to Hawaiʻi and are known to have some unique habits and some of the carnivorous species were described previously on another page of this website. The very paper by Haines et al in 2014, Ancient diversification of Hyposmocoma moths in Hawaiʻi ( states:

“The moth genus Hyposmocoma is one of very few lineages that diversified across the entire Hawaiian Archipelago, giving rise to over 400 species, including many restricted to the remote northwestern atolls and pinnacles, remnants of extinct volcanoes.”

According to Rubinoff and Haines ( the moths have “representatives in habitats as diverse as new lava flows and primary forest and ranging from sea level to alpine scrub at elevations of more than 3300 m”. They also note that “The diversity of ecological niches occupied by Hyposmocoma spp. far exceeds that of Drosophila spp., with different species of the moths specializing on most native plants, dead wood, lichens, algae (both aquatic and terrestrial), or detritus.”

The Rubinoff lab webpage has interesting information, photos, and a key to the Hypsocoma moths: Reference is made to the group as “Hawaiian Fancy-cased caterpillars and moths” and photos of some of their cases are also on the website.

The Koa moth (Scotorythra paludicola) is another species and outbreaks occur periodically and defoliate koa. See:

Blackburn’s sphinx moth (Manduca blackburni) is a listed endangered species of moth endemic in Hawaiʻi. The larvae feed on plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae). A DLNR 2015 SWAP factsheet is here: A snip from the factsheet is below.

The species listing page on the USFWS ECOS website is here:

Information about a study on Hawaiʻi Island is here: and below is an excerpt from the description of the project.

“The native larval host species, ‘aiea, (Nothocestrum spp.) is in decline throughout the State. Manduca blackburni has host-shifted to tree tobacco (Nicotiana glauca), an invasive plant, that is spreading across dry, arid landscapes. Once thought extinct, M. blackburni larvae have been found to be locally abundant onN. glauca… In order to determine potential adverse impacts to M. blackburni, and to maximize avoidance of take, we initiated surveys for eggs and larvae and documented host plant use to estimate density and distribution of M. blackburni in the Plan area. To date, 54 survey transects (14 in 2010, 40 in 2011) have been completed.”

Additional information is available on the Wikipedia page:


Hawaiʻi has only 2 native butterfly species of a reported 17 (15 non-native) found here ( Both are endemic with the common names Kamehameha and koa.  

A website describing information for the Kamehameha butterfly (the Hawaiian name is Pulelehua) is here:

Credit: G. Metzler

The photo shows the butterfly on its preferred host plant, mamaki (Pipturus albidus) during a release at a Manoa Cliff (Mount Tantalus) site. The released individuals did not create a population that persisted, probabably due to predation by non-native birds. Attacks by ants (all non-native to Hawaiʻi) is also another possible reason.

Information is also provided at Wikipedia: The Kamehameha butterfly has been declared Hawaiʻi’s state insect but it has been disappearing from areas where it formerly occurred. Information on efforts to rear the species and release it at locations where it has been seen historically or where conditions were thought to be supportive are here:

One of the first sites where released was Kawainui marsh. Another site is at the Manoa Cliff Native Forest Restoration Project on Mount Tantalus and a description of a release effort there is here: Re-establishment of the species a locations where it was known formerly was without success as of the end of 2019.

The Koa butterfly (Udara blackburni), also known as a Hawaiian blue is briefly described here: A short story of finding these butterflies on one of its favorite flowers, sandalwood, and beautiful photos are here:


A DLNR 2015 SWAP factsheet can be found in Chapter 7 of the full document (the link on the factsheet page seems not to be working): A snip from the factsheet is below. From the numbers given there, 99% of the native beetles are endemic!

Here is an excerpt from the factsheet: “Carabid beetles are the dominant predatory insects in native wet forests, and species in the family Curculionidae (weevils) are the dominant herbivorous insects in all habitats. Different species of beetles also feed on fungus, some specialize on particular plant parts and others are detritivores. Diversity within most families is generally highest on Maui, O‘ahu, and Kaua‘i. The most specious families include: Carabidae(5 genera/239 spp.), Curculionidae (10 genera/169 spp.), Aglycyderidae (Proterhinus/158 spp.), Anobiidae (3 genera/138 spp.), Cerambycidae (3 genera/128 spp.)”. Other families are listed with numbers below 100.

Resources available for information on the Hawaiian Coleoptera are available on Karl Magnacca’s site:

A nice summary and references to the scarab beetle group in Hawaiʻi are here: and with a checklist here:ʻi-Scarabaeoids-Checklist.pdf.

Photos and description of some of the more common insects in Hawaiʻi is here:

As an example of the remarkable evolution of many species groups in Hawaiʻi the photo above of a sign in Haleakala NP near the summit parking area describes one group in Hawaiʻi, the long-horned beetles. Some information with links on this group is available at Karl Magnacca’s website given above.

Crickets and Katydids

A DLNR 2015 SWAP factsheet (snip from factsheet is below) can be found in Chapter 7 of the full document:

 The crickets of Hawaiʻi are especially interesting. From the Hawaiʻi SWAP: “The number of endemic Hawaiian crickets is twice the number of species that can be found in the entire continental United States.  The largest number of endemic species is found in the genus Trigonidium.”

In Evolution in Hawaiʻi: A Supplement to Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science, 2004 ( S. Olson writes: “About 240 species of crickets have evolved from the separate arrival in Hawaiʻi of a tree cricket, a sword-tail cricket, and a ground cricket. Among these species are several species that have adapted to subterranean life within underground lava tubes in Maui and the Big Island”. An example is Caconemobius (Orthoptera: Gryllidae), a genus of endemic crickets.

In the 1994 book The Crickets of Hawaiʻi, Daniel Otte describes most of the native species.

 “Caconemobius (Orthoptera: Gryllidae) is a genus of endemic crickets that inhabit extreme rocky environments including barren lava flows, beaches, waterfalls, and lave tube caves.  They are morphologically variable, and consequently the species delimitation is difficult.  This is particularly true for the cave-dwelling species, where caves may be separated by long distances but dispersal is facilitated by ground cracks that the crickets are able to move through.  Only 10 species are described, but several more undescribed species are currently known, and additional cryptic species are suspected.  Many of their habitats have not been fully explored due to difficulty of access, and may harbor additional unknown species.  Many are threatened by the impacts of invasive species and human activities, such as development over lava tubes.  Resolution of species boundaries through genetic markers and integrated taxonomy will allow for better conservation management of the group.”