How you can help guard against invasive pests

Posted on Apr 25, 2019 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main
HDOA specialist Kailee Lefebvre with a coconut rhinoceros beetle.

HDOA specialist Kailee Lefebvre with a coconut rhinoceros beetle.

Find them before they find you.” That warning about little fire ants in Hawai‘i should scare anyone since stings can cause blindness in pets, severe pain and allergic reactions in people and damage to crops and wildlife. Infestations have been found on nearly every island in the state. The good news is that the ants and other invasives can be eliminated in an area if found early enough.

That’s why the Hawai‘i Invasive Species Council (HISC) is urging everyone to become more informed and vigilant about helping the state monitor invasive outbreaks before they become too widespread to manage. “Invasive species impact  every aspect of our lives,” said HISC coordinator Josh Atwood. “The public is our eyes and ears to find new infestations. The state can’t be everywhere so we rely on people to report invasive species sightings to us.”

The public can use Little Fire Ant test kits to see whether they have infestations in their yards.

The public can use Little Fire Ant test kits to see whether they have infestations in their yards.

In addition to the fire ants, state agencies have been working together to monitor the spread of albizia trees; rapid ʻōhiʻa death, which threatens vital watershed forests; and mosquitos, which can spread disease, such as zika and dengue fever. The Ige administration has developed the state’s first interagency biosecurity plan and works with the volunteer invasive species committees on each island to monitor threats and take action where needed.

Governor Ige, as chair of the Western Governors’ Association, has made biosecurity a priority and is holding discussions with experts from other states and across the Pacific to talk about how they can work together. “The governor’s support has helped to bring more attention to the issue,” said Atwood. “He’s also emphasized the importance of getting more funding and positions.”

At a recent public forum sponsored by the state Department of Agriculture and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, speaker after speaker described the need for more staffing in the war against invasives as well as public awareness of what citizens can do to help. “We save so much in costs to the state by investing in people to do this work,” said Atwood. “It affects virtually every aspect of our lives — our health, economy, culture, and agriculture. Call HDOA’s statewide pest hotline at 643- PEST to report any invasive pests and go to www.stoptheant.org for easy ways to test for little fire ants.

Read more in the May Capitol Connection newsletter.

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