Maximizing the Utilization of Bamboo in the Hawaiian Islands

Final Report for FW09-025

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $14,460.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Grant Recipient: Whispering Winds Bamboo
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Rich von Wellsheim
Whispering Winds Bamboo
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Project Information



Whispering Winds Bamboo is dedicated to "Creating a Culture of Bamboo” here on the Hawaiian Islands, which includes the cultivation and post harvest use of clumping tropical timber bamboos. We have demonstrated that clumping bamboos can be successfully grown on the islands (not only on our farm on Maui but also on the farm of our project cooperator on the big island of Hawaii). We are now turning our attention and energy to the post harvest aspect of bamboo, which includes treatment, curing and building with bamboo. This Western SARE Farmer/Rancher grant project focuses on the inherent and treated resistance to attack by termites of six species of bamboo.

The results of the testing on our untreated samples corroborates our on-farm experience that untreated bamboo is very susceptible to attack by wood eating insects like termites and powder post beetle. We have concluded that without appropriate treatment, use of bamboo, on or off the farm, results in a short useable life thus mitigating any benefit to the farmer for use on the farm or for sale to the public.

The lab results from the testing of six species of untreated bamboo samples that were subjected to a no-choice test using two termite species (Coptotermes gestroi and Coptotermes formosanus) were clear. The samples were three year old clumping bamboos from clumps that were six years old and the species were: Gigantochloa psuedoarundinacea, Bambusa oldhamii, Guadua angustifolia, Dendrocalamus brandisii, Dendrocalamus latifloris and Bambusa hirose. The samples tested showed no inherent resistance to attack, although some species faired better than others.

We have included the summary of Dr. Grace’s work in the appendix of this report, as well as a power point presentation that Dr. Grace’s graduate student presented at the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of American in San Diego last December. We have been focused on the outreach side of our grant as of late. In addition to the table we hosted at the Body and Soil Conference here on Maui from the January 14-16, 2011, we attended and presented at the Hawaii Chapter of the American Bamboo Society’s annual Bamboo Festival in September. Also, we have posted our project results on the Hawaii Farmer Union web site and attended a monthly meeting with copies of the research and talked with folks at length. We also made our results available at the recent American Bamboo Societies annual meeting held in Louisiana two weeks ago.

We have been working with Dr. Jeff Lloyd of the Nissus Corp who supplies us with the borate material for our pressure treatment system as he has tested samples of our treated bamboo for borate retention. He has connected us with a lab, run by Dr. Kristin Van Den Meiracker, which is testing our treated and untreated samples of a single species (Gigantochloa attar) to a third species of termite (Reticulitermes).

Project Objectives:

Our project proposed to test up to eight species of clumping bamboo for resistance to termite attack without treatment. We have been fortunate in having Dr. Ken Grace, our technical advisor, spearheading the lab work so that our results are in keeping with standard testing protocol (they used E1-09 from the American Wood Protection Association and ASTM D 3345-74), and therefore acceptable to all concerned. At Whispering Winds Bamboo we are committed to bringing island-grown bamboo into the market place as a renewable and locally grown building product for the home and farm. Proper post harvest handling and treatment is key to a dependable long-lasting material, and this work on insect resistance of bamboo is important in crafting a protocol that will give our bamboo projects longevity and dependability.

We have also spent considerable effort to get this information out to the public so that their bamboo projects will be long lasting and satisfying.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • J. Kenneth Grace
  • John Mood


Materials and methods:
Laboratory Work at the University of Hawaii

The attached Power Point Presentation was given at the annual meeting of the American Entomology Society in December 2010 by folks at the University of Hawaii who did the lab work for our grant. We are in debt for the work that they performed.

Research results and discussion:
Final Technical Report.

The attached technical report covers the full scope of the work done at the University of Hawaii's entomology department. This document is a great resource for the bamboo industry here in Hawaii.

Participation Summary

Research Outcomes

No research outcomes

Education and Outreach

Participation Summary:

Education and outreach methods and analyses:

We have been very active in sharing the results of our project. Dr. Grace and his student delivered an address at the Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America in December 2010. The citation for the talk is: Hapukotuwa, Nirmala K., and J. Kenneth Grace. 2010. Comparative study of the resistance of six bamboo species to attack by Coptotermes formosanus Shiraki and Coptotermes gestroi Wasmann (Blattodea: Rhinotermitidae). Presentation to the Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America, San Diego, CA, December 2010. His power point presentation is attached to this report.

Whispering Winds Bamboo hosted a table at the 2011 Body and Soil conference here on Maui in January earlier this year. During the three day long event, we shared copies of the lab work and talked with 24 farmers who either had timber bamboo growing or were wanting to plant some on their farms. The lack of any resistance to termite attack was a concern to all we spoke with. We distributed 27 copies of Dr. Grace’s report

In September of this year we presented our results at the Hawaii Chapter of the American Bamboo Society’s annual Bamboo Festival. There were 38 folks in the audience, and we passed out 25 copies of the test results and folks filled out the Western SARE survey form as well.

We also attended the Maui Chapter of the Hawaii Farmer’s Union September meeting here on Maui and made available more copies of the report and farmers filled out more surveys. We have attached copies of the surveys to this report as well. Our report and summary is also on the chapter’s web site. See and check the box under ‘farm projects and outreach’.

We also had table space at the Annual meeting of the American Bamboo Society held in Lafayette, Louisiana two weeks ago where copies of the lab test were available and some surveys were filled out. We distributed over 20 reports over the four-day event, and I spoke with many others about our project and the results of our lab work. Many found the information useful and informative.

Education and Outreach Outcomes

Recommendations for education and outreach:

Potential Contributions

Reactions from Producers and Producer Adoption:

It is clear from our research that bamboo is a food that the termites and other wood boring insects can and will eat. For absolute assurance that a bamboo project will survive for years, some kind of treatment is recommended. In our outreach efforts many farmers and others were surprised with our results and ended up committed to proper treatment before investing in a bamboo-building project.

John Mood of Ninole Orchards, who was a cooperator on this grant and grows bamboo on his farm on the big island of Hawaii, now uses the wood preservative facility for his bamboo located in Hilo. John has installed various technologies for treating bamboo on his farm with limited success. Leimana Pelton, who installed a number of Bamboo buildings for the County of Hawaii (see their Hi-5 redemption centers), treated all the bamboo he used at the Hilo facility as well. Bobby Grimes has similarly treated bamboo at the Hilo facility for all of his bamboo building projects.

Here at Whispering Winds Bamboo we have installed a pressure treatment system to treat our timber bamboo poles. While the lab work was being done for this grant, we experienced an infestation of powder post beetles that decimated nearly 90% of our harvested crop. The undamaged 10% leads me to recommend more research; see below. However, the results of the research we did with this grant convinced us to play it safe and treat all of our timber bamboo poles before selling them. We feel that it is absolutely essential to sell a dependable bamboo product as we create a market for locally grown bamboo products and materials.

Future Recommendations

The results of our lab work were disappointing to us as we had hoped to discover some inherent resistance to termites in the quality clumping timber bamboos that we have growing on our farm and that are growing throughout the islands. During our outreach efforts and in speaking with other users of locally grown bamboo, we heard a number of instances where a bamboo projects were still in service after 10 years without treatment or much protection from the elements. While these instances seem rare, and our own experience here is contradictory, we feel there is missing information about increasing insect attack resistance through ‘proper post-harvest handling’ practices. INBAR’s technical report no. 25 describing ‘Traditional Bamboo Preservation Methods in Latin America” describes numerous instances where bamboo is in use for extended periods with no insect attack. However, the documentation is poor, and the conclusions drawn leave room for doubt. Therefore, we believe that the research we have done is just the beginning of a database of dependable research needed for the bamboos grown here on the islands. Lots of untested parameters remain after the work we have done including, but not limited to: age of clump, moon cycles, tides, time of day, time of year, sugar levels in the plant, other cultivars of the same species as well as other species. We hope that more work will be done on this as we continue to ‘create a culture of bamboo’. I am reminded daily of the bamboo temples of Japan which are hundreds of years old and have lots of bamboo members. These structures predated modern chemical treatment processes and have held up amazingly well. There is more to learn here that would benefit the fledgling bamboo industry here in Hawaii.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.