The 'little vampire‘ first detected at Moanalua Gardens in Honolulu
No known predators for Lobate Lac Scale
The young Lobate Lac Scale looks like a tiny red dot to the naked eye.
That tiny red dot comes with a big appetite.
"It was immediately identified as a potential serious problem," said Darcy Oishi, Biological Control Section chief for the Department of Agriculture's Plant Pest Control Branch.
He said the Lobate Lac Scale creates a protective dome over itself, sometimes two, and then hunkers down for a feast.
"As it feeds it sucks on the juices of the plant," he said.
It then spits out what is called a "honey dew," which then turns into black mold.
"Actually this whole branch is covered with sooty mold," he told KITV reporter Lara Yamada, as they looked at an Ulei bush, covered with the black stuff.
Oishi equated it to a layer of soot covering the solar panels on a house, which of course, doesn't work well without sunlight.
"So, you have multiple problems and that reduces the plant's overall health, he said.
Groundskeepers told Oishi an 80-year-old banyan tree that was cut down over the weekend was healthy in August.
But by October there were whole big branches that were dead, and the tree was removed.
Right next to the banyan tree sits the famous Hitachi Tree, featured in commercials around the world.
Oishi said it appears the famous monkey pod tree has not been infected so far.
"This insect has a host range of over 300 known plants that it attacks, and that's just what's known," he said.
The worst infestations so far are in Honolulu, Pearl City, Aiea and Kaneohe.
Experts admit they're playing catch-up to the little bug killing off some of the island's most precious canopies.
"We need to know where it's from and that's totally unknown to science right now," said Oishi.
Experts say Florida had the same infestation.
They say it lasted for about five years, and then died off, but they're not sure the same pattern will happen here.
The Department of Agriculture is looking into possible bio-control solutions. They think a particular type of wasp may attack the scale and help to kill it off.
In the meantime, they suggest people use a systemic insecticide to treat the problem.
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