The holiday season starts early for the Department of Agriculture where Christopher Kishimoto, Unit 13 member and Entomologist, helps coordinate inspections of Christmas trees and other holiday foliage like wreaths.
Before the trees are sent to Hawaii, Kishimoto works with tree suppliers in Oregon and Washington to develop and maintain safety protocols for shipments. This minimizes the number of pests arriving in Hawaii.
When the trees arrive, inspectors select trees from certain containers then shake and pound them to see if any pests are present. Christmas trees can be a host to slugs, yellowjackets, and moths. They also check the trees for signs of Sudden Oak Death, a disease they want to keep out of the islands because it could harm native trees.
If they do find pests, trees can either be treated or sent back. Treating means bringing the entire container of trees to office treatment tents and pounding and shaking every single one, which is no easy task. On average, Hawaii receives 150 containers of Christmas trees per year, with an average of 300-500 trees per container. Luckily, Kishimoto said the preventative measures established with tree farmers worked well and trees were mostly clean of pests this year.
Aside from Christmas tree inspection, Kishimoto works on projects to keep Hawaii safe from invasive species, such as controlling the population of Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles to keep coconut trees healthy. It is a challenging job, especially when it comes to dealing with unexpected cargo. When asked about the most surprising item he discovered in his 14-year-long career, Kishimoto simply responded, “live sting rays.”