Monday, Aug. 8, 2022 |
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WAIMEA — Friday started out just like any other day for Waimea High School freshman Kaya Labanon, but by the end of the day, the 15-year-old had about a thousand new little lives forming under his care.
That’s because his favorite garden spider finally laid her eggs in the school’s Aloha Garden.
“He brings spiders into the garden and now we don’t have to use pesticides because the spiders take over,” said Greg Harding, the school’s gardening teacher.
Labanon has been dubbed the garden’s resident entomologist, or insect expert, and is responsible for all the insects in the Aloha Garden. But for now, he’s completely wrapped up in the new mama and her babies.
“So there’s a decent sack here and these strings are helping to support the eggs upward so they don’t fall,” Labanon said Friday, his finger coming within centimeters of the bright yellow spider and her silk. “I’m planning on naming all the babies, but I don’t have names yet.”
Labanon said the mother spider is the last of the ones he brought in a few months ago. He’s considering using a cousin from Kokee, but said garden spiders seem to work the best of all the different kinds of arachnids.
“I use the garden spider specifically because they are docile and they’ll just work much more than a crab spider,” Labanon said. “The crab spiders take up so much space.”
It’s the tiny circle of life that interests Labanon. He’s fascinated by the way insects fit into the ecosystem and can be a replacement for chemical pesticides.
“They are beneficial to have in the garden, they eat a lot of the pests, and it’s like having a little pet around the garden,” Labanon said.
He got interested in biology through a good friend, who is interested in marine life.
“I wanted to get into something along the same lines, but I wanted it to be my own thing,” Labanon said. “I’ve always loved creepy-crawlies, but have kind of been afraid of having insects near me.”
The more he found out about those creepy-crawlies, though, the more he grew to love them.
“They’re are important to our ecosystem but because of their small size we don’t think of them as that important,” Labanon said. “So now I take care of insects and spiders.”
While Labanon was caring for the spider, Daylan Vidinha, 15, and a few of his friends were pulling a cucumber vine from their garden plot.
“I think cucumbers have been my favorite to grow so far because they grow fast and produce a lot of food,” Vidinha said. “But we’re planning on putting maybe beets, or lettuce, or carrots in now.”
In the meantime, Jamieson Lampotoc, 16, was reveling in the flowers of his eggplant vine. He doesn’t know exactly what variety of eggplant is in his plot, but that’s what makes it most fun.
“I like experimenting with new vegetables and that’s what I’m going to plant after the eggplant is done,” Lampotoc said.
Students have already harvested a round of food from their three-acre garden, and had even a tub full of fish from the aquaponics section to sell to teachers.
“On Fridays we have a little sale of whatever we have ready to harvest for teachers,” Harding said.
Harding started the Aloha Garden a couple of years ago. That transition took him from teaching what he calls “boring” science in the classroom, to being more of a garden mentor for his students.
“They landscaped it and do all the planting and everything,” Harding said. “They’re so passionate.”
As the garden grows, Harding said the plan is to expand the program, incorporating more farming practices as they go along. Even now, two pieces of the garden are rich with freshly tilled soil awaiting sweet potatoes, bananas and sugar cane.
“That’ll be a traditional Hawaiian garden,” Harding said. “So next year, we’ll start our more farm-production type classes, and we’re going to farm real big.”
Jessica Else, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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