As Waipahu Intermediate tries to get rid of an ant infestation, school officials are also looking to find a solution to another bug problem. Beetles have plagued the campus for several years.
Ants were getting inside the classrooms, stinging students and teachers. The pests were also crawling inside computers and telephones and destroying them.
The principal also pointed out that beetles have been swarming around one of the buildings, and every attempt to get rid of them has failed.
KHON2 wanted to know exactly what they are and how to get rid of them, both the ants and the beetles, so we brought some samples to an insect expert from the Department of Agriculture.
The beetles have infested mainly one building in the back of the campus, on the ceilings, where they mostly stay. But at times, they fly around and go inside the classrooms.
“It’s like you’re in a jungle when you’re walking cause they’re flying all around and then when you look up on the walls they’re like moving it’s kind of gross,” said teacher Daena Tokunaga.
So many bugs have swarmed over the years that they’ve left these dark brown stains all along the ceiling of the entire building. This building was actually painted about five years ago so the stains which are all around the building were done in about that time.
With the help of the custodian, KHON2 got some samples of the beetles, as well as the ants that have infested several buildings, and brought them to an insect expert with the State Department of Agriculture. He says the beetles are known as false blister beetles because they emit a chemical that can cause a mild burn.
“Some people who are more sensitive will get what they call burns that’s usually the problem with these beetles,” said Bernarr Kumashiro, Insect Taxonomist with the State Department of Agriculture.
As for the stains on the ceilings, “the stains are the fecal matter they defecate they’re pretty messy,” Kumashiro said.
Kumashiro says it’s not a health problem, but getting rid of the beetles will be difficult because the school has to get rid of the source, which is the swamp area across the building.
The Department of Education says it’s not state land so that’s a problem.
“Second, it’s probably protected wetlands. It will be like going to Kailua and looking across from Kalaheo High School and say we’re going to eradicate the entire swamp out here, which is a protected wetland,” said Ray L’Heureux, assistant superintendent with the State Department of Education.
As for the ants, L’Heureux says an exterminator has been hired to monitor the baits and, if they’re not working, then the exterminator would have to spray to get rid of the ants.
The DOE says it will have to figure out some other way to get rid of the beetles, but it probably won’t be anytime soon.