Little Fire Ant Spreads to Kona

January 27, 2010, 10:47 AM HST · Updated January 27, 10:49 AM
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Agricultural officials have confirmed the spread of the invasive Little Fire Ant from populations in East Hawaii to the West side of the Island.

The species was first detected in the Big Island’s Puna district in 1999.  The new finding was made at two locations in Kailua-Kona—one at a residence, and the other at a landscaping firm that may have been infested for two years, according to the owner.

Photo of fire ant colony courtesy R. Heu and the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture.

Photo of fire ant colony courtesy R. Heu and the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture.

Image courtesy W. Nagamine & the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture.

Image courtesy W. Nagamine & the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture.

State entomologists believe that it is likely that there may be other unreported locations that are infested in West Hawaii.

The invasive species was confirmed here on Maui four months ago at a farm in Waihee.

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The little fire ant (LFA) is considered among the world’s worst invasive species, producing painful stings and large red welts that can cause blindness in pets.  The species is originally from South America.  The tiny ants are just 1/16th inch long, are pale orange in color and move slowly.  They can build up very large colonies on the ground and in trees and other vegetation and completely overrun a property.  Agricultural official say they will also freely move into homes.

Surveys determined that LFA appeared to have been on the west side of Hawaii Island for several years prior to their initial detection and was widely distributed in Puna.  Attention was then focused on controlling ant populations and preventing the spread to uninfested areas on the island and to other islands.

(Posted by Wendy Osher; Supporting Information Courtesy the Hawaii Department of Agriculture)

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