Infestation of Little Fire Ants Confirmed at Maui Hotel

June 18, 2014, 3:09 PM HST · Updated June 18, 3:11 PM
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File photo by Wendy Osher.

File photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

The state Department of Agriculture has confirmed a small infestation of the invasive little fire ant at a hotel in the south Maui resort area of Wailea.

Officials say the infestation was confirmed in late May, and covered an area about 400 square feet.

A survey of the area was conducted by crews from the Maui Invasive Species Committee, the Hawaiʻi Ant Lab, and the state Department of Agriculture, who treated the area with the pesticide, Siesta.

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Officials say the hotel will do follow-up treatments every six weeks under the direction of the Hawaii Ant Lab.

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

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

“The area of infestation was caught early and crews are extremely confident that it can be eradicated,” said Scott Enright, chairperson for the Hawaii Board of Agriculture in a press release statement. “We cannot express enough how important it is to find any infestation before it becomes widely established.”

Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair William Aila, Jr., also commented calling the little fire ant a “serious threat” to plants, people and property in the state.

“This tiny ant can inflict painful stings to children, pets and adults, but fortunately, testing for its presence is easily done. The state has a well-established system in place for people to submit their surveys for further testing to determine whether LFA has spread to a particular property or plant material,” he said.

The little fire ant has been on Hawaiʻi Island since 1999, but was first detected on Maui in late December of 2013 on hāpuʻu logs found in a retail store.

Agricultural officials believe the ants spread to Maui from Hawaiʻi Island, and also confirmed infestations on hāpuʻu tree ferns at several garden shops on Oʻahu and at another store on Maui.

Five Oahu nurseries, three of which were in Waimanalo, were found to have small infestations of LFA, which were treated and are clear of the ants, according to agricultural officials.

Crews also began treating a 6-acre area in Waimanalo on Oʻahu, which included a 3.5 acre infestation area and buffer zone.  Department officials say the treatments began in late May, and follow-up treatments are continuing.

Earlier this year, Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa requested additional personnel within the Department of Agriculture to conduct pesticide inspections and alien species screening for Maui County.

Little fire ants – as tiny as they are — are a very small little ant, but they pack a very big sting/bite and it’s very toxic,” said Arakawa in an earlier interview with Maui Now. “You’ll get severe welts for two or three days rather than just two or three hours. It’s been known to blind pets, and cause severe harm to small animals, and could possibly be very harmful for small children as well,” he said.

Agricultural officials say the little fire ant is considered among the world’s worst invasive species.

The tiny ants are originally from South America, measure just 1/16th of an inch long, are pale orange in color and move slowly.

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

To aid in the effort, the Department of Land and Natural Resources has also produced a three-minute video, “How to Test for LFA,” which shows the step-by-step procedure for testing for LFA.

 

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