Slugs could slow Christmas tree deliveries

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News,Business

HONOLULU (AP) — State agriculture inspectors are finding slugs and other pests potentially harmful to Hawaii's environment in many of this season's Christmas tree shipping containers, delaying the start of some yuletide celebrations.

"The department realizes that Christmas trees are a treasured holiday tradition," Carol Okada, the Department of Agriculture's plant quarantine branch manager, said in a statement Friday. "We are doing our best to treat and clear the trees as soon as humanly possible."

About half of the 150 containers of trees and wreaths checked so far this season cleared inspection without trouble, but six containers had to be treated before release, and 49 containers are being held until they can be treated for pests.

Plant quarantine inspectors are requiring shippers to shake each tree in the container or spray the trees with hot water, depending on the pest inside. Trees are shaken to get rid of wasps and sprayed to eliminate slugs.

Inspectors are supervising, but the shippers must provide the labor for the treatments. Shippers also have to unload and reload the containers.

The department is concerned the slugs may carry a rat lungworm parasite which causes a disease that affects the human brain and spinal cord.

The department expects 100 more tree and wreath containers will arrive between now and Christmas.

Carol Ai May, vice president of City Mill, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser her company had gotten only three of 10 shipping containers it ordered for a Black Friday sale.

"We're bummed," May said.

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