Farmer who spotted little fire ant has diligence honored

Farmer and flower grower Masako Cordray was awarded the Malama i ka Aina Award for her proactive response in December upon discovering little fire ants on plants she had recently purchased.

Her actions sparked a statewide response that alerted authorities about the invasive species’ presence on both Maui and Oahu.

“The 45 minutes she took to sample plant material has had immeasurable consequences,” Maui Invasive Species Committee Manager Teya Penniman said. “This is truly an example of the contributions one person can make.”

Cordray used the peanut butter test – which involved leaving a bit of peanut butter on a stick near a suspected infestation and waiting for ants to come – and promptly contacting MISC to verify whether or not the ants were little fire ants.

Cordray has influenced invasive species prevention efforts for many years. She was part of a grass-roots effort to incorporate an improved biosecurity facility when Kahului Airport was being expanded – actions that led to the completion of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s state-of-the-art inspection facility in 2007.

She also produced a film about the invasive miconia weed in 2006.

The Malama i ka Aina Award was presented June 14 at the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals’ Lawn and Garden Fair held at the Maui Mall.

The award is presented annually to recognize an individual or business working to keep invasive species out of Maui County and is sponsored by the landscape professionals, the county and MISC.