Hawaiʻi once boasted well over 700 species of endemic land snails, but today nearly 75% of these are extinct and many of the remaining species are endangered. The Hawaiian tree snails in the endemic subfamily Achatinellinae number over 100, all evolved from a single ancestor! The ones represented on this shirt come from the genera Achatinella (found only on Oʻahu) and Partulina (found on Molokai, Lānaʻi, Maui, and Hawaiʻi). These little jewels of the forest are famous for their beautiful stripes and variable color patterns. Shells were strung into lei and worn as adornments. Interestingly enough, these snails give birth to live young (unusual in the snail world) and spend most of their life in a single tree, feeding on leaf fungus. Cute and charismatic, these shells became the obsession of Naturalists and others who collected them extensively in the 1800ʻs, contributing, in part, to their decline. However, the real culprits are large-scale habitat destruction and alien predators, such as the introduced cannibal snail, Euglandina rosea, and the nasty Rattus rattus (both are still a problem for the tiny populations of endangered snails that remain today). Famous in story and song, Hawaiians spoke of the sound the tree snails make and used the "leo leʻa" or sweet voice of the kāhuli as a metaphor for the beautiful singing voice of a person. Although scientists have sought for years to disprove this phenomenon, we at Kealopiko deeply admire the traditions and elegant poetry of our kūpuna and let them inspire the words accompanying this design: Hoene mai nō kou leo leʻa - Your sweet voice sounds softly.
Our kūpuna were the original botanists in these islands. They named a huge percentage of the over 2,000 species of native plants found throughout the pae ʻāina (archipelago). Many of these plants are the foundation upon which our material culture is built. Labordia is the Latin name of the endemic genus highlighted here (this design features 5 of its 16 species). It has two sub-groups of yellow-flowered and green-flowered plants, yet most of these species were named kāmakahala by our ancestors who recognized their kinship despite their very different appearances. Plant science at its finest!!! The flowers from three types of kāmakahala were used to make lei for aliʻi (royalty) and on Kauaʻi, lei kāmakahala were reserved for chiefs alone. Famous in mele (both ancient and contemporary), pua kāmakahala (kāmakahala flowers) are often a reference to a person. One kanikau (mele of lamentation for the death of a loved one) describes the appearance of the kāmakahala in the uplands as "lamalama" (glowing, vivacious, or bright-looking) - a fitting metaphor for a makamaka (intimate friend), or anyone loved or esteemed. Those fortunate enough to be in the right habitat and come upon a kāmakahala in full bloom will know just how brilliantly they glow, like yellow stars in a sea of green. These species (six of them now endangered) once occurred from Hawaiʻi to Niʻihau, but are now restricted to certain islands and habitats.
Ka hala o ka nuʻu - The hala of the summit
Hawaiians call it kīkākapu, but English nicknames for Chaetodon auriga include "threadfin" or "cross stripe" butterfly fish. It is a common reef dwelling species throughout the Indo-Pacific region, also occurring in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Although they can be seen in groups, kīkākapu mate with a single partner. A pair will often establish and defend a territory of up to 300 square feet. They feed on a variety of things including sea worms, anemones, coral polyps, and algae. Their fancy decorations make them extra appealing to harvesters in the aquarium trade, but we think they are better off enjoyed in their natural habitats. Although they were not popular for eating because they have so little meat, early Hawaiians did see metaphoric and aesthetic value in the fish. In the story of Kaipalaoa, "ke keiki hoʻopāpā" (the youth skilled in riddling), this youngster goes to Wailua, Kauaʻi to avenge the death of his father, Halepaki, at the hands of the chief Kalanialiiloa. Kaipalaoa goes to the residence of the chief, who is completing his fence of human bones. He pulls out the "pahu kapu" ("kapu stick" or stake defining an important boundary), and replaces it with a kīkākapu - a symbolic act of hoʻopāpā and the beginning of their contest of wits. An old chant (versions of which exist for both the chiefess Piʻikea and her brothers and for Kauikeaouli) speaks of a chief whose forehead is tattooed with the stripes and streaks of the sacred fish - Nā kīʻoki ʻōniʻo o ka iʻa kapu.
From the famous papa kōnane (kōnane boards) at Kalaekimo to the din of voices in Kaunakakai, the game of kōnane was loved and played by people throughout Hawaiʻi, chiefs and commoners alike. Kōnane is all about the last move, and is an excellent way to hone the skills of strategy and foresight. It was said that Kamehameha was an expert player able to beat his opponents with unparalleled swiftness. The kumu pili (wager) agreed upon by the two players could be as small as a kiss, or as valuable as oneʻs family land, or even their life. It could settle a political dispute, or get you time alone with someone you desired. Hinaikamalama, in her kōnane game with ʻAiwohikupua, asked that the wager be their bodies, the winner able to request anything within reason. Sassy hoʻi kau! E pili nō kāua - letʻs make a bet (letʻs get close!).
Leave it to the kūpuna (elders/ancestors) to come up with beautiful metaphors from nature to describe people and relationships. The kūmū fish is a classic metaphor for a good-looking sweetheart (male or female) and the ulua fish for a kāne that tickles the fancy of a wahine. The kūmū, Parupeneus porphyreus or Whitesaddle goatfish is endemic to Hawaiʻi and a prized delicacy. Our kūpuna commonly offered it to the gods because of its red color. These days, this beautiful fish is rare. Here the kūmū fish is in hot pursuit of the ulua. ʻAnoʻi aku i ka ulua māʻalo i kuʻu maka - Desiring the ulua that passes before me. The ulua aukea, Giant Trevally, or Caranx ignobilis, is considered a koa (warrior) of the sea. Ulua aukea are reported to exceed 200 lbs in weight. These large individuals frequently swim in vast schools in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands but are less common in the main Hawaiian Islands. They are prized by shore fisherman for a great fight.
This unassumingly beautiful shell bears the Latin name Nerita polita and is found throughout Hawaiʻi and other tropical areas. Preferring a discreet lifestyle, they stay nestled down in the sand between the rocks at the high tide line during the day. At night, they emerge and crawl onto the rocks to feed. A special structure with rows of curved teeth is used to rasp and scrape diatoms and other yummy microscopic algae from the rocks. Hawaiians have always collected these shells to eat and make adornments from. Ornaments for both the wrists and ankles are called kūpeʻe and are often made from the shells (who was named after who?). They draw the eye to the hands and feet of the hula dancer and make a beautiful sound when the body moves. Lei ʻāʻī, or strung objects worn about the neck, are also made from these shells. In times past they were worn when mourning the death of an aliʻi (chief). A very famous lei kūpeʻe that once belonged to Kapiʻolani can now be found at the Bishop Museum. This lei was made from shells gifted to her when she traveled the islands. Found within each shell was a small scrap of paper bearing the name of the place it came from and the type of shell it is. Charcoal colored shells are most common and, according to Mary Kawena Pukui, rainbow colored shells or ones with a red stripe were not for makaʻāinana (everyday people). Today, high levels of harvesting are having an impact on kūpeʻe populations throughout Hawaiʻi. Because the largest shells produce the most babies, collecting those of medium size may help to preserve this precious resource.
Kū i ka pō, peʻe i ka lā - Come out at night, hide during the day.
To celebrate 50 years of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival, we created a design honoring both the Merrie Monarch himself, King David Laʻamea Kalākaua, as well as the cultural cornerstone he restored to its rightful place: our beloved hula. It was one of several practices the Mōʻī (King) delved into (others included genealogy and Hawaiian medicine) on his quest to heal and raise the consciousness of his people and to "Hoʻoulu lāhui" (grow the Hawaiian population, which had been reduced by more than half since the introduction of foreign diseases). The book "Na Mele Aimoku, Na Mele Kupuna, a me Na Mele Ponoi o Ka Moi Kalakaua I" is a selection of some of the hundreds of chants gifted to Kalākaua or collected by him and his genealogy committee before, during, and after the celebration of his 43rd birthday. "Kiekie Kona i hapai ia e ka pohu, He Inoa No Kalakaua," by Kaihua, is one of these selected mele. It is filled with strong and beautiful sun imagery; a take on his name that is a refreshing departure from the commonly known literal translation "the day of war" (Ka-la-kaua vs. Ka-la-kau-a). One literal translation of the line "Ka lapa uila olapalapa i ka la" is The flash of lightning in the day/sun. But the line also evokes things other than the lightning, such as the flutter and flash of ʻōlapa leaves in the sunlight, this energy being embodied by the hula dancer (another meaning of ʻōlapa), and the awakening of consciousness that happens when we allow this dance of life to dance us. Certainly Kalākaua knew these things and wanted us to keep dancing. Mahalo nui iā ʻoe e Ka Mōʻī Kalākaua, i kēia makana aloha āu i hoʻoili mai ai ma luna o mākou. *Note: We have chosen to align with the style of the original text and not use diacritical marks on the ʻōlelo for this shirt.
Leave it to the kupuna (elders/ancestors) to come up with beautiful metaphors from nature to describe people and relationships. The kūmū fish is a classic metaphor for a good-looking sweetheart (male or female) and the ulua fish for a kāne that tickles the fancy of a wahine. The ulua aukea, Giant Trevally or Caranx ignobilis, is considered a koa (warrior) of the sea. Ulua aukea are reported to exceed 200 lbs in weight. These large individuals frequently swim in vast schools in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands but are less common in the main Hawaiian Islands. They are prized by shore fisherman for a great fight. Here the ulua fish is in hot pursuit of the kūmū. He hialaʻai wale kā kuʻu maka e hana ai - My eyes delight in devouring her beauty. This ʻōlelo was uttered by a character in the story of
Kualunuiaola as his eyes feasted on the incredible beauty of a certain chiefess. The kūmū, Parupeneus porphyreus or Whitesaddle goatfish is endemic to Hawaiʻi and a prized delicacy. Our kūpuna commonly offered it to the gods because of its red color. These days, this beautiful fish is rare.
Duck...duck...goose! Kakā is actually a generic name for a duck and also means to quack, or make a duck-like noise. Similarly, nēnē refers to the goose itself, and also to the sound it makes, which has been likened to the cries of an infant. Although this is a takeoff on a non-Hawaiian children's game (touching someone's head is a sensitive subject in Hawaiian culture), it is also fun way to showcase some of Hawaiʻi's finest and most rare birds! The koloa (Anas wyvilliana) is an endemic Hawaiian duck once found on all the main islands, but now considered critically endangered and restricted to Hawaiʻi, Maui, and Oʻahu. The introduced Mallard duck (Anas platyrhyncos) breeds aggressively with A. wyvilliana and hybrid ducks are the result. Purebred koloa are now rare, numbering in the low hundreds. Mongoose, rats, cats, and other alien critters prey on the nests of the koloa. Habitat loss and over-hunting have also contributed to the decline of the species. The Laysan duck (Anas laysanensis), also endemic, used to be found throughout the Hawaiian islands, but many of the same issues caused the species to be reduced down to a single breeding pair on the northwest island of Laysan! Captive breeding and release programs helped this population to rebound and successful introductions to Midway atoll have also been achieved. The nēnē goose (Branta sandvicensis) is the official bird of the State of Hawaiʻi, and shares a similar story to its duck friends. This species was hunted to near extinctionin the 1940s before hunting laws changedand rescue efforts were established. There are now upwards of 800 nēnē in the wild. Still endangered, the endemic goose is found only on Hawaiʻi, Maui, Molokai and Kauaʻi. Nēnē can be seen roaming free in Haleakalā National park on Maui, where visitors know to NOT feed them.
The Waikīkī we know today is filled with hotels, visitors, and traffic. Despite the many changes, great numbers of people still go there to celebrate the ancient sport of heʻenalu (surfing). The originators of big wave riding, Hawaiians are famous for rushing all kind of surf throughout the island chain. One popular surf break is Kalehuawehe, with its long and curling wave (Ka nalu kākala o Kalehuawehe). In ancient times, people would gather at Ulukou to watch the aliʻi (royals) ride the long, peeling breakers. Steeped in story and fascinating historical accounts, the Waikīkī area has many place names that have fallen into disuse. Our desire is to hear these names "ma ka lehelehe o ka lehulehu" (on the lips of the multitude). From Laeʻahi (Diamond head) to Kālia, many beautiful names are shown on the front of this shirt. Letʻs use these names again and honor this beautiful place as our kūpuna did!
Heʻe nalu (surfing), an ancient sport that chiefs and everyday people practiced with certain loina (rules or behavioral norms) has been adopted by the world. Hawaiʻi received 10.4 million tourists last year, many of whom surf or tried it out while here. This high volume of visitors takes a heavy toll on nearshore ecosystems. During ke kau malihini ʻole (lockdown 2020), the people of Hawaiʻi enjoyed surf spots without the normal crowds. Seaweed, fish, and other lāhui (species) began to rebound, reminding us of why our kūpuna mandated rest periods for places and resources. Let us further restore the mana of these places by using their traditional names. Waikīkī, the most heavily surfed area of Hawaiʻi, has many names that ALL of us can use. When we say them, we invoke our history and the ancestors who surfed these spots long before us.
In celebration of ten years in business, we created a design to honor the original Hawaiian clothing makers and their art, kapa. Kapa is cloth made from the inner bark of the wauke plant (Broussonetia papyrifera) or that of māmaki and ʻulu. Integral to traditional life, kapa received newborns at birth, clothed people throughout life, and shrouded their bodies in death. As a medicine, it cured an ailing Queen Liliʻuokalani who was instructed by a kahuna to find a kapa paʻūpaʻū (an "overlaid" kapa, secured for her by Flora Hayes' father). Joseph ʻIlālāʻole says as many as 50 separate pieces were joined together to make a kapa paʻūpaʻū. But size did not make Hawaiian kapa unique. It stood apart by the gauzy quality of some types, the scenting of cloth, the use of hāluʻa (watermarks), ʻohe kāpala (bamboo stamps), and many unique dye colors. A technique called kaula kākau inspired our design: A string dipped in ink is held taught by two people and snapped onto the surface of the cloth to form perfectly straight lines! We mahalo the kapa experts (likened to pueo by our ancestors) who revived this art and maintain tradition while also innovating in exciting new ways. Also seen on this design is our special ʻohe kāpala design we call ʻili ʻulu, inspired by the texture of the breadfruit skin. We chose the ʻulu as it represents growth, inspiration and abundance, plus it is ʻono loa!
He kapa maikaʻi e mehana ai ke kino - A fine cloth to warm the body.
In the second wā of the Kumulipo (a great genealogical chant of creation), amidst a host of other splendid sea creatures, emerges the puhi kauila (kauila eel), guarded by its land companion, the kauila tree. Could this pairing have to do with the use of these two things in magic? One story tells of the use of puhi kauila (Enchelycore pardalis) to heal as well as to bring harm. Also known as the Dragon Moray, this magniﬁcent snake-like creature is a sight to behold. Its orange, red-brown, white and black markings and patterns are nearly as fascinating as its horns and nose appendages. Noted for its aggressive behavior, the puhi kauila is not one to be messed with. Still, aquarium traders eagerly ferret out this one-of-a-kind eel (a possible cause for its declining populations). It is found throughout the Paciﬁc, but its numbers are falling in the main Hawaiian islands. Two distinct endemic tree species are recognized by the name kauila: Alphitonia ponderosa and Colubrina oppositifolia. A. ponderosa was once found on all the main Hawaiian islands, except Niʻihau and Kahoʻolawe, but is now threatened. Molokai individuals were known as one of the three kālai pāhoa trees, whose implications in magic are many. The endangered C. oppositifolia is unique to Oʻahu and Hawaiʻi islands and its numbers are perilously low. The wood of both of these species are some of the most valuable timber of the Hawaiian dryforests - now one of the most rare habitat types in the islands. Incredibly dense, close grained and strong, these woods were used for various spears and weapons, iʻe kuku (kapa beaters), ʻōʻō (digging sticks), kāhili (feather standards), papa olonā (olonā scraping boards) and more. Ke kauila nioniolo lālā ʻole o uka - The straight and branchless kauila of the uplands, ke kauila pepeʻe o kai - The twisted kauila of the sea.
About Our Name:
"Ke alopiko" means "the belly of the fish." This māhele momona (fat and sweet section) was prized by Hawaiians of old who recognized it as the choicest part of the animal, as in this ʻōlelo noʻeau (traditional saying): I ka piko nō ʻoe lihaliha - Eat of the belly and you will be satisfied. Breaking the word alopiko down reveals further layers of meaning. The alo, or the front of the body, is what we present to the world. The piko, or navel, where we once were connected to our mothers in the womb, is the piko that connects us to the present, to our living relatives, and to those with whom we share space (there are 2-3 other piko on the body, depending on who you ask). We believe the perfect things for adorning the alo and the kua (back) and for inspiring the waihona noʻonoʻo (mind) are designs honoring the rich natural and cultural heritage of Hawaiʻi. We also believe in minimizing our impact on the ʻāina (land) and kai (sea), so we use eco-friendly materials and donate a percentage of our profits to organizations aligned with our mission (learn more about us at kealopiko.com). Our logo is the moi, a sweet and delicious fish that was highly prized by our ancestors and is still sought after today. Like ʻawa and ʻanae, moi feeds on limu (algae) and is often cultivated in fish ponds.
Ua miki ke kō a ke au kupua - The pull of the kupua current is swift.
Ocean currents were an integral part of how our kūpuna traveled the deep sea in their waʻa and continue to be important for modern day voyagers and all those involved in ocean activities. The inspirations for this design are the kupua (supernatural beings with several forms) named Keaumiki and Keaukā. These "denizens of the deep" are originally from Kuaihelani (the homeland of many Hawaiian deities) and are described in various moʻolelo as powerful currents, ebb and flow, and the gods of the tides. In addition to their own travels between Kuaihelani and the main Hawaiian islands, they are notorious for both assisting and inhibiting the journeys of others. They have helped the likes of Pele and Puniakaiʻa by making their waʻa move quickly. Conversely, they pulled Kila and his waʻa down into the ocean depths when he was traveling to Tahiti and caused similar trouble for Kaulu during his voyage to Kuaihelani in search of his brother. In the story of Hainakolo (Ka Nai Aupuni version), these kupua assume human form and thoroughly impress people with their surfing skills by catching a wave from Oʻahu to Kahoʻolawe and back. The author says when a waʻa reaches the place known as Kealaikahiki (both an ocean current and the westernmost point on the island of Kahoʻolawe), it will be taken by these kupua. It is known that Hawaiians of old went on fishing expeditions to Nihoa, Mokumanamana and other small northern islands. Maybe it was Keaumiki and Keaukā who helped to carry their fleets of canoes there and back.
ʻO ka pua aloalo nui a hine wale ka mea laha loa a ohohia nui ʻia e ka hū a me ka lehulehu, eia naʻe, he mau pua ʻōiwi ko Hawaiʻi o ka ʻohana lāʻau hoʻokahi nō (Malvaceae) i like aku nō hoʻi ko lākou kūlana hiehie. ʻO ka māhele e ʻou kalalea aʻe ana mai waena aʻe o ka pua aloalo, ʻo ia ka māhele hoʻoipoipo, ka mea hoʻi e hanohano ai ia ʻohana lāʻau. ʻO ia ʻano hoʻolale like mai nō a ka uʻi ke nānā aku ka maka i nā pua o nā lāʻau ʻelua o ka lau o nei lole. Ma ke ʻano makaliʻi nō naʻe ia nani, ʻoiai he pua ʻuʻuku nō ko lāua. ʻO Abutilon menziesii, no ka ʻāina maloʻo mai nō o Hawaiʻi, Maui, Lānaʻi, a me Oʻahu. Ua nalohia loa ma ua mau ʻāina lā, akā koe maila nā ʻanoʻano, no laila ua kanu hou ʻia akula ma Oʻahu. He nui wale nā wai o ia pua, mai ka pūnono a ka lenalena, a he miʻi mīkohukohu mai nō ke kui ʻia i lei. No Lānaʻi mai ʻo Abutilon eremitopetalum a he hoʻokahi wale nō ulu koe, e kū ana i kona kau e nalo ana nō hoʻi i kekahi kau. Me he pele kani lā ke "calyx" o ia pua a hoʻonalo ʻia maila ma lalo ona nā lihilihi maoli o nei pua laha ʻole. Ke poʻo weweo e kūnou ana - The red, bowing head.
These days, it's those big, bright, iconic Hibiscus that tend to get all the attention, but Hawaiʻi has several endemic species in the same family (Malvaceae) whose blossoms are no less gorgeous. Let's be honest, it's the prominent structure that bears both the male and female sexual parts that's half the charm of flowers in this family. The two endemic species in this design have that same sex appeal, but in smaller format. Abutilon menziesii is endemic to the dry shrublands of Hawaiʻi, Maui, Lānaʻi, and Oʻahu (only 3% of which remain today). It went extinct in the wild, but seeds from wild populations were used to establish new ones on Oʻahu. These flowers come in a gorgeous range of shades from maroon to yellow and make a stunning lei when strung. Abutilon eremitopetalum is endemic to Lānaʻi, where the last wild population comes and goes with the years and seasons. Sometimes called "hidden-petaled Abutilon," the distinctive bell-shaped calyx hides the light green petals of this highly unique flower. Ke poʻo weweo e kūnou ana - The red, bowing head.
Me he ʻupaʻi na ke koaʻe lā - like the flapping of the koaʻeʻs wings. This is a line from a chant uttered by Hiʻiaka on her epic journey from Hawaiʻi to Kauaʻi to fetch Lohiʻau ipo. She reaches the Waiʻanae district on Oʻahu and sees Kaʻena "like a bird poised in the calm". She chants to honor this beautiful place before descending into it to find a waʻa and continue her journey. Koaʻe, koaʻe kea, and koaʻe ʻula are the names of the three types of Koaʻe, or tropic birds, found in Hawaiʻi. These graceful seabirds nest high up in cliffs. They are found on other pacific islands and link us, through story and tradition, to some of our polynesian cousins.
Also known to Hawaiians as pīpīwai, this indigenous "spikesedge" has been given the Latin name Eleocharis obtusa. It is a small, clumping species whose compact bunches of flowers are placed proudly at the ends of long cylindrical leaves. It likes to grow in wet areas (bogs, ponds, streams, etc.) and used to be common in loʻi kalo, where it was smashed down into the ponds to act as a natural fertilizer. This species also had important ceremonial and medicinal uses. It was employed in ceremony for a family that wanted to cleanse and ask for increased health and material prosperity. It was one of several items laid on ʻaoa (sacrificial places) at fishponds and offered in the forest when felling a tree to make a canoe. ʻAumakua moʻo who had been offended by a family member and made them sick in return were given kohekohe (and other items) in a request to lift the illness. The ʻōlelo Kōlīlili ka lā i ka maka o ke kohekohe was adapted from two lines belonging to the mele "He inoa no Leleiōhoku." One translation of this phrase is "The heat of the sun vibrates on the centers of the kohekohe flowers." The interaction of masculine and feminine in this beautiful botanical metaphor is typical of the poetry of our ancestors, which was heavily populated with these kinds of images. It reminds us, once more, how plants, in all their sexy splendor, were (and still are) a huge part of Hawaiian life.
What Hawaiians call kokiʻo or hau hele ʻula are four species that comprise an endemic genus of small trees called Kokia (belonging to the larger hibiscus family, Malvaceae). These species have flashy bright red flowers that are quite large. Whereas many species in the hibiscus family have a circular presentation of petals (radial symmetry), the petals of the kokiʻo are unevenly spaced (bilateral symmetry) with a slight twist and curve to suit the the beak shapes of the birds who once pollinated them. It is said that a single flower can produce huge amounts of sweet nectar (possibly the most of all the native flowers) that it is rich in both sugars and proteins. Like big jugs of juice, these flowers would have provided power packed meals to large honeycreepers. It is rumored that the flowers were used in lei and also to produce pink and lavender dyes. A red dye was extracted from the sap of the bark for dyeing fishing nets and this sap was also used to treat thrush. Kokia lanceolata is now extinct on Oʻahu and the other three species are all highly endangered. K. cookei, a Molokai endemic now exists only in botanical gardens grafted onto the species K. kauaiensis from Kauaʻi and K. drynarioides, from Hawaiʻi, may have fewer than ten plants left in the wild.
Scientists call this fabulous bug Coleotichus blackburniae, but most people know it as the "koa bug." It is probably the most stunning of all the native insects, in terms of having a wildly colored appearance. It belongs to a larger family called Scutelleridae, commonly known as jewel bugs or metallic shield bugs because of the brilliant coloration many species display. The outer covering, or exoskeleton, of the koa bug looks like someone took a ruby and messily sprayed it with an iridescent green paint. We hope this stunning bug is not becoming too rare, as one study says that a biocontrol introduced to fight the southern stink bug (an alien agricultural pest) is negatively impacting populations of koa bugs. Many people have not had the chance to lay eyes on these beauties, as they live mostly on koa (Acacia koa), ʻaʻliʻi (Dodonaea viscosa) and sometimes koaiʻa (Acacia koaia). However, they do like the non-native Acacia confusa, so if you happen upon that weedy tree, keep your eyes peeled. They should not be too hard to spot, as full-grown bugs are nearly three quarters of an inch long, making them Hawaiʻi's largest endemic bug. As other true bugs, these little critters don't chew. Instead, they have mouthparts for piercing plants and sucking out their juices.
Ka puʻu noʻe pili koa - The little colored bug that clings to the koa tree
Hey kids, did you know that there are only two butterflies native to Hawaiʻi? That's right, the Kamehameha butterfly (Vanessa tameamea), and our friend here, the koa butterfly, or Udara blackburnii, as it's known in Latin. It is called the koa butterfly because it likes to lay its eggs on koa (Acacia koa) and other native plants like koaiʻa (Acacia koaia), ʻaʻliʻi (Dodonaea viscosa), olomea (Perottetia sandwicensis) and mamaki (Pipturus albidus). It lays eggs on some introduced plants too. The little caterpillars that hatch from those eggs eat the leaves of these plants, but the adults sip the nectar from all kinds of flowers. The wings of this gorgeous butterfly (which span less than an inch) are blue on the top and green underneath, but it is their sparkle-shine that is the real magic. The fancy word that describes this is iridescent which means "showing luminous colours that seem to change when seen from different angles." In butterflies this is caused by light passing through millions of tiny overlapping scales and reflecting off again. Our kūpuna had lots of words for shiny and sparkly, but we chose lilelile because it just seems to fit this little pulelehua.
Kai ka lilelile! - Oh-so shiny!