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Maui Flower Grower Honored for Work Detecting Little Fire Ant

June 24, 2014, 10:05 AM HST · Updated June 24, 1:13 PM
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L&G Fair: MALP Vice-President Allison Wright, Masako Cordray, Maui Invasive Species Committee manager Teya Penniman, Maui County Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons. Courtesy photo.

L&G Fair: MALP Vice-President Allison Wright, Masako Cordray, Maui Invasive Species Committee manager Teya Penniman, Maui County Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons. Courtesy photo.

By Maui Now Staff

Farmer and flower grower Masako Cordray was honored with the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals’ Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award for her work in detecting an infestation of little fire ants on plant material she purchased in December of 2013.

The discovery set off a chain of events that resulted in the discovery of little fire ants at other garden shops and nurseries on Maui and Oʻahu, and sparked a statewide response to control the invasive species.

Cordray was able to confirm the infestation by capturing some of the ants on peanut-butter coated sticks, and sending the samples to the Maui Invasive Species Committee for review.

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“The 45 minutes she took to sample plant material has had immeasurable consequences. This is truly an example of the contributions one person can make,” said MISC manager Teya Penniman in an agency press release.

The little fire ant has been on Hawaiʻi Island since 1999, but was recently detected on Maui in late December of 2013 on hāpuʻu logs traced to a retail store. A separate discovery was made in May 2014 at a small 400 square foot landscaped area at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort.

Agricultural officials say the little fire ant is considered among the world’s worst invasive species.  State officials say the invasive pest can inflict painful stings to children, pets and adults.

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Anyone that suspects they have an infestation of invasive species, is asked to report the incident to the state’s toll-free pest hotline at (808) 643-PEST (7378).

Lawn & Garden Fair: Masako Cordray. Courtesy photo.

Lawn & Garden Fair: Masako Cordray. Courtesy photo.

In addition to her land stewardship on the land she farms, Cordray was also part of a grass roots effort to incorporate an improved bio-security facility at the Kahului Airport that resulted in the completion of a state-of-the-art inspection state Department of Agricultural facility in 2007.

In addition to being a farmer, Cordray is also noted as an award-winning photographer and videographer who donated much of her time to helping educate the public about invasive species.

MISC representatives say Cordray worked to create a film about miconia in 2006. She also approached MISC about creatig a film about the little fire ants when they were discovered on Maui in 2009.

Cordray was presented with the Mālama i ka ʻĀina Award during a ceremony held on Saturday, June 14, at the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals’ Lawn and Garden Fair at the Maui Mall.

The award is issued annually to an individual or business working within the landscape or agricultural community to keep invasive species out of Maui County.

The award is sponsored in part by the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals, the County of Maui, and the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

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