Scientists Seek to Stop Tree-killing Wasp - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Scientists Seek to Stop Tree-killing Wasp

Keau Meyer Keau Meyer
Walter Nagamine Walter Nagamine
KHNL News 8's Beth Hillyer standing next to a felled wiliwili tree on Sand Island KHNL News 8's Beth Hillyer standing next to a felled wiliwili tree on Sand Island
These wiliwili trees are all now dead, destroyed by an invasive wasp These wiliwili trees are all now dead, destroyed by an invasive wasp

by Beth Hillyer

HONOLULU (KHNL) - This road in Sand Island State Park used to be lined with shady wiliwili trees. Now all that's left are just these stumps and here this lone lifeless tree. There are more than fifty stumps here in the park and there are still dozens of dead trees that need to be chopped down.

Jogger Keau Meyer misses the shade trees, "A few years ago we had a lot more shade throughout the park. I started noticing leaves were dying and all of a sudden trees getting cut down."

Billions of tiny insects called erythrina gall wasps are killing native wiliwili trees

Meyer says, "Yeah that surprises me, I just thought they were old I didn't know they were getting eaten."

The wasps eat all the leaves so the trees can't grow.

Entomologist Walter Nagamine says, "It's gonna take a lot of wasps to kill a tree but they multiply so quickly in short while they do a lot of damage."

Scientists believe the wasps originate in Africa and arrived in the islands from Taiwan.

It's impossible to kill them by spraying insecticide.

So local researchers went to Africa to find a natural enemy.

Nagamine says, "All living things have checks and balances so we are looking into the home land of this."

This problem is statewide. On Sunday crews chopped down and fed this dead wiliwili tree into a chipper. Ever since the infestation started last year scientists have pinned their hopes on the parasites they brought back from Africa.

Nagamine explains, "We have three parasitic wasps that we are colonizing right now in our quarantine facility and we have to test them make sure they are specific to this wasp attack only this wasp and no other beneficial insects or native insects."

But it may be a year before they think they can release parasitic wasps.

If that what the option is I hope it takes care of it and we had a beautiful park and now it's dying.

Of course it's too late to save these wiliwili trees. But once scientists can wipe out the wasps they can replant the trees.

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