Hawaii agriculture officials are asking for the public’s help in spotting infestations of the stinging nettle caterpillar, which appears to have recently spread to Kauai.
The state Department of Agriculture said Wednesday Kauai residents may begin to see more of the bugs during the summer, the peak months for the species.
The Big Island, Maui, and Oahu already have established populations of the caterpillar, which carries a painful sting.
Last August, a Kauai plant nursery owner found one and turned it in to the agency’s plant quarantine branch. The department has since found adult moths in Wailua, Kapaa and Kilauea.
The caterpillar is white and has a long stripe running down its back. Those allergic to the bug may have difficulty breathing or develop other serious symptoms after being stung.
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.