Ant infestation covers 4 acres in Waimanalo

HONOLULU — An extensive survey of an area in Waimanalo has determined approximately 4 acres are infested with little fire ants, tiny invasive ants that can inflict painful stings. Crews surveyed more than 50 acres from Kumuhau Street to Mahailua Street in Waimanalo and determined that the infestation area is on state land and in mulch areas located outside nurseries in that area. Little fire ants were detected previously on hapuu from Hawaii Island at a few nurseries and garden shops earlier this year, but those areas were treated and are now clear of little fire ants.

Survey operations were headed by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture and involved several agencies including: the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawaii Ant Laboratory, Oahu Invasive Species Committee, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species, Hawaii Invasive Species Council, The Nature Conservancy, University of Hawaii, City & County of Honolulu, and Hawaii National Guard.

Little fire ants have been found on Hawaii Island since 1999. In late December, the ant was detected on hapuu logs (Hawaiian fern) at retail stores on Maui and Oahu. Since its detection, Oahu and Maui nurseries have been surveyed. Five Oahu nurseries, three of which were in Waimanalo, were found to have small infestations of little fire ants, which were treated and are clear of the ants.

Ant infestation covers 4 acres in Waimanalo | West Hawaii Today

Measure in state Legislature targets alien little fire ants

A bill in the state House would provide $500,000 toward destroying little fire ants.

Of all the ants in all the world, Hawaii had to get bitten by this one.

Hawaii lawmakers on Monday advanced a bill aiming to study and kill the little fire ant, a hard-stinging pipsqueak that threatens the state’s economy and ecology.

House Bill 2469 would provide more than $500,000 toward coordinating efforts to corral and destroy the little fire ant. It includes money to pay for trained dogs to sniff out the tiny pests and for public outreach.

At 1/16th of an inch long, the copper-colored ant does not cut a formidable figure. But since it first landed on Hawaii island 15 years ago, possibly as a stowaway on a potted plant from Florida, the ant has spread on the Big Island and has popped up on Maui, Oahu and Kauai.

Of the perhaps 30,000 species of ants on Earth, only six are considered “really nasty,” said Cas Vanderwoude, the research manager of the Hawaii Ant Lab at the University of Hawaii. Of those six, he said, the little fire ant poses the greatest potential threat to Hawaii.

“Our lifestyle and climate just suit this animal down to a T,” he said. “If I was a little fire ant and wanted to go on vacation, I’d come to Hawaii.”

The ants have proved onerous for several reasons, Vanderwoude said. They live in trees, where they infest crops and bite agricultural workers. They also live on the ground, where they attack people and pets, perhaps partially blinding cats and dogs by stinging their eyes. A single square foot of infested ground can contain 2,000 ants.

The ants travel between islands by hitching rides on crops and propagated plants. That threatens to undermine agricultural exchange among the islands and beyond. The ants also drive away insects, birds, lizards and mammals that prey on other pest insects, further harming crops.