HONOLULU (KHON2) — A sickly-looking tree in Waikiki caught the attention of one of KHON2’s viewers, who sent in a Report It to find out more.

The native tree has hala scale; an insect that is widespread on Molokai and Maui.

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Hala scale was first found in Hana, Maui in 1995 and has since spread to Molokai and Oahu.

UH Manoa grad student Mason Russo — who is studying for his Ph.D. — told KHON2 that the infested tree next to Kalia Road is just one of many in Waikiki.

“It’s driving around when you’re in Waikiki, you can see that when trees are heavily infested that the leaves get a yellow discoloration underneath,” Russo said. “And when it feeds on the plant, it sucks out the plant juice and stays entrenched for life until crawler stages come out, which then spread the insect.”

The insects can spread easily in the crawler stage, according to the Oahu Invasive Species Committee.

“They do live on the plant, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t fall off from time to time, so they can be on your shoes,” said Erin Bishop, OISC outreach coordinator. “Juvenile hala scale spread very easily in the wind, so you can get them stuck on your clothes and on your shoes.”

Russo’s academic advisor said hala scale was actually eradicated from Lanai by treating infested trees, burning and burying them before treating the area with pesticide.

Researchers with Dr. Zhiqiang Cheng’s lab are also looking into injecting plants with chemicals that will kill the insects, but keep the tree alive.

“It’s on the horizon and we know they work very well, so the goal is to get them licensed, get them labeled for hala scale so people can actually use it,” said Dr. Cheng, Associate Professor of Entomology at UH Manoa.

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Invasive species can be reported to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture through their 643PEST website.