WAIKIKI, Hawaii (KHON2) — A sickly tree in Waikiki caught the attention of one of KHON2’s viewers, who sent in a Report It to find out more.
The indigenous hala tree near Fort Derussy is suffering from an invasive insect known as hala scale.
We’re Hawaii’s weather station, get the latest forecast and radar information here
According to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, hala scale was first detected in 1995 on trees in Hana, Maui. The HDOA said since then, some of the indigenous trees on Oahu and Molokai have been infected.
UH Manoa’s Dr. Mark Wright — a professor of entomology — explained their impact to KHON2.
“They just live in place on a leaf, they put their mouth parts into the leaf, they suck fluids out,” Dr. Wright said. “Their mouth parts are inserted into the plant, it’s like a little straw, like a hypodermic syringe, I guess, which removes nutrients from the plants and energy drain, and eventually it causes the leaves to die back.” said Wright.
Hala scale insects — which commonly are seen as a black dot with a waxy, white ring — have not been detected on Hawaii Island. The Big Island Invasive Species Committee said the critters are definitely on their radar, however.
“You look at the hala scale, it’s so very tiny, something that was very easy for it to sneak in and get here and that’s really a common problem that we continue to deal with where each year there’s more and more things getting here, unfortunately,” said Franny Brewer, acting program manager at BISC.
Experts said folks should get in touch with HDOA officials if they think they see a tree with hala scale and to never touch it for themselves.
“It’s pretty easy to spread them if you’re moving plant parts at all,” Wright said. “So if leaves are being moved, they’re also on the fruits and then if the fruits have been moved, they’ll move that way.”
Hala trees are indigenous to Hawaii and are found mostly in coastal regions. The leaves were traditionally — and still are — used to weave baskets, ropes and more.
“So, that tradition has been passed down in Hawaii through many generations and so anything that is going to be a threat to the existence of the tree is really a threat to that cultural practice,” Brewer said.
Click here to report an invasive species in Hawaii to the Agriculture Department through its 643pest hotline, which allows the public to upload a photo and location of a potential infestation.
“And someone can identify that and if it’s something that needs to be responded to, the experts will come and respond to it,” Brewer said.
Stolen jewels, boa constrictors killing owners, check out Weird News here
KHON2 reached out to HDOA about the hala tree in Waikiki and reported the infestation.