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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Monday, November 29, 2004

Trees pass bug inspection

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

The last of the big shipments of Christmas trees has arrived, and while they may not be bug-free, agriculture inspectors yesterday didn't find anything prohibited or threatening.

Mandy Anhalt, left, an entomology major and intern at the state Agriculture Department, and Keevin Minami, a land vertebrate specialist, search for illegal insects, reptiles and other pests that may have arrived in a Matson shipment of Christmas trees. The department held up three containers yesterday.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

"No snakes, yellow jackets or wasps," said Darcy E. Oishi, entomologist for the state Department of Agriculture.

Oishi and his team of specialists looked at 82 container loads of Christmas trees yesterday at the Matson Navigation Co. shipping yards. They pulled trees from containers, shook them over sheets and watched for anything that moved.

Each container, he said, contained nearly 500 trees. Hawai'i's trees typically come from the Pacific Northwest, and this year most of them have been from Oregon.

Only three container loads of trees were held up by the Agriculture Department yesterday.

Oishi said they are awaiting paperwork that is likely to arrive by today or tomorrow, he said. Once the paperwork is in line, those containers will be released and the trees distributed.

Entomologist Darcy E. Oishi of the state Department of Agriculture found this carabid beetle while inspecting one of the containers of Christmas trees that was shipped here.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Most of today's shipment, Oishi said, is bound for O'ahu's retailers. The first shipment of Christmas trees to the state, a smaller one of 20 containers, arrived on Nov. 14, he said. A week ago, a shipment of 80 containers arrived. Smaller shipments will continue to come in for the next week and a half, he said.

Salamanders and tree frogs were found in one of the earlier shipments, Oishi said. In past years, agriculture inspectors have found snakes and shrews.

The worst-case scenario, Oishi said, is when especially dangerous insect pests, such as wasps, hornets or gypsy moths, arrive in a container.

When that happens, he said, inspectors build a tent around the container, then collect the pests inside the tent, being careful to make sure nothing escapes.

"None have had to be tented over this year, thankfully," Oishi said.

The Hawai'i Department of Agriculture checks all agriculturual products that enter the state.

Some common insects that pose no threat — such as those that won't survive to reproduce in Hawai'i's climate — are allowed to live out their final days on the contents of the containers.

Oishi asked that residents be on the lookout for uninvited guests on their Christmas trees that aren't the creatures normally hitchhiking on flora in the state.

"If they find anything unusual, they should call the Pest Hotline," Oishi said.

The Agriculture Department's pest hot line is 586-PEST, or 586-7378.

Reach Karen Blakeman at 535-2430 or kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.