The state Department of Agriculture found shipments of Christmas trees from the Pacific Northwest to be infested with slugs and other pests not found in the state.
As of Thursday, agricultural inspectors withheld 74 of 150 containers for pest identification or improper paperwork, said a Department of Agriculture news release Friday.
Infested containers are being treated by the Agriculture Department's Plant Quarantine Branch, which found this year's infestations to be very extensive. Treatments include shaking containers for wasp infestations and hot-water treatments for slug and coqui frog infestations.
Carol Okada, Plant Quarantine manager, said the cost of clearing the trees of slugs will be borne by the shippers. But, the state will have to absorb the overtime cost for the plant inspectors, who also are needed to clear other items being shipped to Hawaii this holiday season, she said in the news release.
With Christmas approaching, Okada said that her agency is "treating and clearing the trees as soon as humanly possible."
Okada said that she did not know why there was such a large infestation of slugs. She said officials from Washington and Oregon were shocked to hear about the problem and speculated that wet weather caused the slugs to take refuge in the trees, according to The Associated Press, based on a Honolulu Star-Advertiser report.
"It's a heavy time for us," Okada said, adding that there is a constant flow of seafood products, plants and other items arriving in the islands for the holidays.
"We will be stretched to the max," she said.
The Home Depot on Maui, which imports all of its trees from the Pacific Northwest, was not affected by the tree infestation or the container inspections, according to General Manager Dominique Ozoa on Friday.
However, Lowe's Maui General Manager Siale Puluo said Friday that one container her store received Wednesday had to be recalled due to the infestation.
Alternatives to the imported Pacific Northwest Christmas trees may be found at Kula Kelly's Farm.
Starting Dec. 1, Kula Kelly's will be selling locally grown Norfolk pines as Christmas trees from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Owner Kelly Bass and husband Mike Wilson cut and prepare the trees for customers and said that the trees have a long life span, with no shedding, prickling or smell.
The farm is located at 742 Holopuni Road in Kula. The sale will go from Dec. 1 to 23. For more information, call Mike Wilson at 281-2277.
* The Associated Press contributed to this report. Chris Sugidono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.