A Proactive Approach to Environmental Stewardship

Camila Chaudron '08

December 18, 2014

In early 2014, the Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy’s Hawai‘i Chapter, Suzanne Case ’74, contacted Punahou Carnival’s Plant Booth Coordinators to discuss possible measures to prevent the spread of Little Fire Ants on O‘ahu. These invasive pests are relatively new to Hawai‘i and, although they are not always visible to the naked eye, they can cause painful red bites that last for days.

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A student volunteers in the Plant Booth during the 2014 Carnival.

Thanks to Case’s proactive efforts, Punahou volunteers ensured that all the plants donated to the 2014 Carnival were tested and cleared before being sold and distributed, preventing the spread of Little Fire Ants to new locations on the island.

This year, the School is revamping its effort to prevent the spread of this invasive species. The Director of Luke Center for Public Service, Carri Morgan, met with Case over the summer to coordinate efforts on-campus. Potential plant donors were sent written information about the dangers and treatment for Little Fire Ants, and they have been requested to test their plants before bringing them to campus.

Student-volunteers at Luke Center for Public Service and certain Academy Science classes have created test kits and information packets about the ants to help donors comply with the request.

The letter sent to plant donors stated: “If you are considering donating plants this year or if you just want to test your yard and provide important information for the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, please stop by Luke Center for Public Service or the PFA office to pick up your free test kit.”

Morgan continues to be in contact with the Hawai‘i Nature Conservancy as well as the O‘ahu Invasive Species Council for updated information about Little Fire Ants and where they are most commonly found on the island. The Carnival Coordinator, Lee Ann Ichimura, and the parent chairs of the Plant Booth, have also met with Morgan so that they are all informed and up-to-date about best practices for this situation, including preparation and follow-up with donors in the case that they are unaware of the School’s stewardship efforts.

Want to make your own kit? It’s simple – all you need are popsicle sticks, a small amount of peanut butter and a zip-lock bag. For more information about how to assemble the kit and where to send your results, visit www.littlefireants.com or watch this video to learn how devastating they can be.

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