Experts worry Christmas trees could bring murder hornets, other pests to Hawaii

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — It’s the centerpiece of many homes on Christmas. But before the tree gets to your home, it has to go through inspections, shaking and sometimes pesticides to help keep invasive species from getting a free trip to Hawaii.

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Some of the things experts worry about? Snakes, slugs and even murder hornets.

The first colony of murder hornets in the United States were discovered in October. While a University of Hawaii (UH) professor says they could be gift wrapped to Hawaii in Christmas tree shipments, no murder hornets have been found in the area where trees are harvested.

UH Entomology Professor Dan Rubinoff believes that Hawaii’s climate could be a paradise for the murder hornet. Many other pests would also thrive in Hawaii’s unique ecosystem.

“Insects and snakes and things like that are settling down for the winter and they want a nice, safe, cozy spot to sleep,” Rubinoff explained. “A Christmas tree farm and the dense foliage of Christmas trees is a great place to rest.”

Back in 2012, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington reached a compliance agreement that requires trees to be inspected at their point of origin. According to the Department of Agriculture, 61 percent of containers with trees passed inspection in 2012, which grew to 98 percent in 2018.

“Working with Oregon and Washington, we’ve been able to keep pretty much everything out of the containers,” said DOA Plant Quarantine Branch Manager Jonathan Ho.

Inspecting trees involves unwrapping several of the trees and physically checking through them for pests.

“Generally five to seven trees if we can, but usually it’s between three and four depending on the size of the trees,” Ho said. “A typical 40 foot container will have maybe 500- 600 trees in it.”

Just last month, a small Garter Snake, a Pacific Tree Frog, and other pests were discovered in a shipping container of Christmas Trees.

Professor Rubinoff says folks have options for their Christmas centerpiece, such as purchasing an artificial tree or buying local.

“They have Cypress and they have Norfolk or Cook Pines that you can use and they’re beautiful,”

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