Haʻikū Meeting Tonight to Discuss Little Fire Ant

February 25, 2015, 2:52 PM HST · Updated February 25, 2:55 PM
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LFA Wasmannia auropunctata. File photo Photo credt Eli Sarnat.

LFA Wasmannia auropunctata. File photo Photo credit Eli Sarnat.

By Wendy Osher

New infestations of the invasive little fire ant have been found in Huelo and Haʻikū, prompting a community update meeting on Maui tonight.

The discovery was made on Jan. 16, 2015, and eradication efforts have since been initiated at both locations.

The discovery marks the ninth infestation found on Maui since 2009, according to officials with the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

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Agency specialist, Lissa Fox Strohecker, released information about the finding saying, “Given the estimated size of the Huelo infestation, it has likely been there for several years. The little fire ants found in Haʻikū were spread from Huelo and officials are confident of eradication in that instance.”

Tonight’s meeting (Wednesday, Feb. 25) begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Haʻikū Community Center, and is sponsored by the Hawaiʻi Ant Lab, Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture, County of Maui and the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

Agency representatives will provide information about the status of little fire ants in East Maui, including the recent detection in Huelo and Haʻikū.  There will also be a brief presentation of the status of little fire ants on Maui’s north shore, and plans for control.

The public is invited to bring samples of ants if they are concerned they may have little fire ants on their property. Instructions for sampling can be found at the following direct LINK.  Maui residents are encouraged to report any unusual, small orange ants to the Maui Invasive Species Committee at 573-6472.

The latest infestation report comes following the December 23, 2013 detection of small populations of little fire ants at several retail stores and South Maui locations.  Authorities determined that the ants arrived on infested hāpuʻu ferns from Hawaiʻi Island.

A subsequent infestation, and the largest to date on the island, was reported in Sept. 2014, in an area of forested land near Nāhiku in East Maui.  MISC officials say the infestation is being treated by the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture or the Hawaiʻi Ant Lab.

The Little Fire Ant, or LFA for short, is a native of South America, and is considered among the world’s worst invasive species.

The ants measure just 1/16th of an inch long, are pale orange in color, and have a larger head in proportion to their body.

Agricultural officials say the LFA can produce “painful stings and large red welts and may cause blindness in pets.”

They have been known to build up large colonies on the ground, in trees and other vegetation, and buildings and homes and completely overrun a property, according to the HDOA.

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