Little fire ant infestation eradicated

WAILUKU – An infestation of little fire ants on Maui has been eradicated, the state Department of Agriculture announced Thursday.

The department credited the success to its rapid response and the development of innovative pest control methods.

The ants (Wasmannia auropunctata) can deliver a painful sting. They were discovered in October on a Waihee farm, and the Agriculture Department launched what it said was an “aggressive response to survey, contain and treat the infestation.”

The department obtained a special permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use an experimental ant bait developed by scientist Cas Vanderwoude, with the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

The new bait provided an alternative to ground treatments to combat the pest, and it allowed the ants to be attacked in trees and vegetation where they nest. The Waihee area had been treated monthly with the ant bait and since February no little fire ants have been detected at the site of the infestation.