Beetles, snakes, mosquitoes, and ants. No, it's not something of biblical proportions… not yet anyway, but it could become a major problem for our islands if enforcement is not increased to ensure that pests from afar don't gain a toehold in Hawaii. We've long heard concerns about brown tree snakes that have devastated the bird population in Guam, but right here, right now, there are new concerns about unwanted seeds, plants, little fire ants, potentially dengue fever-carrying aegypti mosquitoes, and wily coconut rhinoceros beetles. I think I have an album by them.
Surely this is no laughing or small matter. The state legislature must find the funds now to fully staff the quarantine and inspection divisions and to make sure that all of the branches that help to keep out unwanted visitors are working together to avoid problems with our health, forests, wetlands, and our native or purposely introduced wildlife. According to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser report last week, only one Vector Control Section employee handles the entire Honolulu Airport. Positions were cut due to funding shortfalls, and that was quite shortsighted, because good luck trying to undo an invasive species attack. Anybody remember concerns about tiny coqui frogs?
The time has come to reallocate and re-direct funds now. Currently, due to lack of funding, there is no night shift agricultural inspector at the airport, according to acting Health director Gary Gill. None. It's pretty easy to see how a diabolical, crafty mosquito might sneak in when no one's minding the store, and we simply can't let that fly fly. And once an unwanted species spreads its proverbial wings, the costs will be in the millions in damage control.
Now is the time to fully fund the pest patrol statewide, before we all feel the sting caused by badly underfunded inspection departments. Think about it…