State crews removing bromeliads due to mosquito concerns


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State crews spent the day working to remove bromeliads in planters along the H-1 Freeway near the Honolulu International Airport and are expected to return on Thursday and Friday to complete the job.

The reason? Five confirmed trappings of a potentially destructive pest. On March 5, 2012, the Department of Health Vector Control Program identified the presence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito at the Honolulu International Airport.

“The DOH has identified the most efficient mosquito at spreading dengue fever at the airport. So that means either this mosquito is coming in regularly on airplanes or it’s found a home and is breeding at the airport,” state Department of Health Deputy Director Gary Gill said.

The health department says it is the worst-case scenario.

“Unfortunately, bromeliads by their design, these plants catch water, they have little water cups, which are perfect little breeding pools for mosquitoes all the way down from the airport down to town,” Gill said.

In Feb. 2012, the Department of Transportation spent $319,000 on the beautification project to spruce up the well-traveled section of the H-1 Freeway. At the time, critics felt the project, which was funded by the DOT’s Highway Fund, was a waste of money.

“The bromeliads themselves were about $58,000, so we are removing the bromeliads. The planters and the irrigation that was put in can be used in the future,” DOT Spokesperson Caroline Sluyter said.

When asked if anyone from the DOT consulted with the health department about bromeliads…

“I would suspect not, but again it hadn’t been a concern until now,” Gill said.

“Since this mosquito is an issue there, we will consult with other parties, obviously the Department of Health,” Sluyter said. “The plants look nice, but we have also been talking about possibly a rock garden.”

Gill says health officials have not seen this type of mosquito on Oahu since World War II.

“This is a precaution to make sure since we know that we have these bad mosquitoes at the airport that they don’t have a clear path to walk all the way into the rest of Honolulu,” Gill said.

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