Yet another reason to source your Christmas shopping locally: Shipments to Hawai`i of Christmas trees from the Pacific Northwest have been found to be widely infested with slugs and other pests that are not found in Hawaii. About half of the shipments have had to be held for treatment by the Plant Quarantine Branch (PQ) of the Department of Agriculture.
Of 150 shipping containers of Christmas trees and wreaths from six maritime voyages that Hawai`i’s agricultural inspectors have looked at, 74 were or are being held for pest identification or improper paperwork.
Status of the 74 containers:
- Six containers have been treated and released
- 15 containers were released without treatment – their bugs already are either here or considered low risk pests
- Four containers were sent back to the shipper at the shipper’s request
- 49 containers are pending treatment
The infestations found this year are very extensive and inspectors are ordering treatment of the infested containers either by 100 percent shaking of each tree in the container for wasp infestations,or by hot-water treatment in the event of slug infestation.
The hot-water treatment is the same type that the department has been using to treat plants infested with coqui frogs. The concern about the heavy infestation of slugs is that they may carry the parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, or rat lungworm, which causes a disease that affects the human brain and spinal cord.
The Christmas tree shippers are being required to provide labor power to unload, shake and reload Christmas trees under the supervision of PQ inspectors.
HDOA expects that an additional 100 containers will arrive between now and Christmas.
The department realizes that Christmas trees are a treasured holiday tradition, said Carol Okada, Plant Quarantine Branch manager. The staff is doing its best to treat and clear the trees as soon as possible.
Alternatives to imports which threaten the health of Hawai`i residents and the islands’ fragile ecosystems and agricultural industry include:
- Purchasing locally farmed trees
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- Purchasing live potted trees which can be kept from year to year
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- Making unique decorations from recycled materials
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