Wasps Spoil School Christmas Tree Fundraiser

Ben Abraham
Ben Abraham
Moana Pacatang
Moana Pacatang

HONOLULU INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KHNL) - Who knew five little insects could cause thousands of dollars in losses for students hoping to raise some money this Christmas.

The little buggers have spoiled their holiday fundraiser by stinging the pocket books of two local schools.

Students raised money by pre-selling Christmas trees through an Oregon company called Evergreen. But when the shipment arrived, inspectors rejected the trees, all because of four wasps and one hornet.

"We want our Christmas trees off that airplane," Ben Abraham with Kailua Christian Academy said after learning about the failed inspection.

Upset customers like Abraham never got to see the trees taken out of the Boeing 747 that flew the load to Honolulu International Airport on Thursday night.

"This island is so small, you do something wrong, people are going to know who you are. And I don't want them to know us for selling trees that were never good anyway," Abraham said.

Kailua Christian Academy is one of the schools banking on the trees to raise money. At Waialua High School, the rejected trees mean students won't see the $5,000 in pre-sales that they raised.

"We were going to use it for activities that go on in school, homecoming and senior proms," said Moana Pacatang, the Parent Community Facilitator at Waialua High School.

The root of the bad shipment? Four wasps and one hornet, some dead, some alive. The big concern was that three of them were queen wasps. Inspectors didn't want to risk having colonies start in Hawaii.

"The Department of Agriculture, they're just doing their job. We can't blame them for doing their job and doing it well. We can't blame the company for having bees in Oregon, that's just the nature of the business," said Pacatang.

The Department of Agriculture considered fumigating the plane, but there were concerns chemicals would corrode the metal interior, leaving only one choice - fly the trees back to the mainland.

This is the first time a company has flown a full load of Christmas trees to Hawaii.

Last week, inspectors quarantined another load of trees, also because of wasps. But those arrived in Matson containers by boat.