When many think of the Maui Chamber of Commerce, they think of a business organization dedicated to improving the economy, helping businesses, providing legislative advocacy for the business sector, offering networking opportunities, providing education and training, delivering cost-effective advertising and promotional avenues, and hosting a lot of events each year.
While we do and are known for these things, we also work on numerous other projects to benefit the Maui community that some may not know about.
One of these activities is the Maui Quarantine Fund's efforts to help address the little fire ant problem.
The Maui Quarantine Fund was established in 1900 to manage rat control after an epidemic of bubonic plague stopped Kahului's development, with much of Kahului deliberately burned to the ground to destroy the rats, which carried the disease. Rebuilding was funded by a tax on business. By the 1940s, the program was discontinued and the remaining funds were put in a trust managed by the chamber, where they grew.
Today, the Maui Quarantine Fund is managed by The Hawai'i Community Foundation with the chamber and its members serving on the Advisory Committee and making funding decisions. The fund is used to benefit health-related programs on Maui, and this year our discussion centered on addressing a very important problem that needs additional funding - the little fire ant.
The little fire ant has become a major pest on Hawaii island, infesting more than 4,000 sites, and is now a threat to the entire state. The state Department of Agriculture has confirmed that little fire ants have been found on Maui in hapuu fern from the Big Island and sold at Lowes and Home Depot. The department asks that any Maui residents who purchased hapuu from either store over the last 12 months check their fern and the area where it is located for ants.
The test is easy to do. Apply peanut butter to a chopstick and push the stick into the fern or the ground nearby. Little fire ants love peanut butter and will be drawn out in approximately 45 minutes. If you see ants on the chopstick, place the chopstick in a plastic bag, put the bag in your freezer and call the Department of Agriculture. An inspector will be sent to your residence for further investigation and, if need be, arrange treatment to rid the area of the ants. On Maui, you can call 808-872-3848 or make a report online at www.reportapest.org.
The Maui Quarantine Fund is currently working with the Maui Invasive Species Committee to look at effective ways to fight this significant threat. We expect to announce how we will assist in this effort shortly, but in the meantime we need the public's help.
Here are things you can do now:
* Watch this documentary and encourage others to as well: www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIUre6lz2GI&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PLEFAA582EDE11F8A0. It is important to understand the magnitude of this problem.
* Ask elected officials what they are doing to address this serious threat and encourage additional support.
* Before purchasing any plants, ask the nursery or store where you purchase plant material where the plants came from and whether they were tested for little fire ants.
* Take measures into your own hands and do the peanut butter stick test (asking vendors first if they will allow it) before bringing plants, soil, compost, cinders and even building materials onto your property.
* Buy Maui plants and materials.
Together, we can make a measurable difference in combating this threat and preserving our economy, environment and quality of life.
* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.