October is “Stop the Ant Month” in Hawai`i and a multi-agency effort will be ongoing throughout the month to increase awareness of the importance of early detection to prevent and control the spread of the invasive little fire ant (LFA).
The Hawai`i Department of Agriculture (HDOA), Hawai`i Ant Lab (HAL) and partner agencies, including the Hawai`i Invasive Species Council, the Invasive Species Committees and the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species will be asking residents on O`ahu, Kaua`i and Maui County to survey their properties for LFA by using a little peanut butter on a chopstick and leaving them in several areas for about one hour. Residents may request a free ant-collection kit through the website: http://stoptheant.org/. The website also has maps of areas where LFA have been detected in Hawai`i.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources has produced a three-minute video, “How to Test for LFA,” which shows the step-by-step procedure for testing for LFA. The video is available on the Stop the Ant website and at: https://vimeo.com/97558997
Any ants collected should be put in a sealable plastic bag, placed in the freezer for at least 24 hours and dropped off or mailed to the Invasive Species Committee office on your island.
· Oʻahu Invasive Species Committee 808.266.7994, 743 Ulukahiki Street, Kailua, HI 96734
· Maui/Lanai Invasive Species Committee, 808.573.6472, PO Box 983, Makawao, HI 96768
· Kaua`i Invasive Species Committee, 808.821.1490, 7370K Kuamoo Road, Kapaa, HI 96746
· Molokai/Maui Invasive Species Committee, 808.553.4236, P.O. Box 220, Kualapuu, HI 96757
“The treatment plans developed by the Hawai`i Ant Lab and the department’s entomologists have been very successful in eradicating new infestations,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Hawai`i Board of Agriculture. “However, early detection is key and we need everyone’s help to be our ant surveyors.”
LFA was first detected in the state on Hawai`i Island in 1999. However, by the time it was detected, the ants were widely disbursed on the island and no treatment protocol existed for eradication. Efforts on Hawai`i Island are currently focused on managing infestations. The HAL was subsequently established to research the best and most efficient methods of eradication and control of LFA.
Originally from South America, LFA is considered among the world’s worst invasive species. LFA are tiny ants, measuring 1/16th inch long, and pale orange in color. LFA move slowly, unlike the tropical fire ant, which is established in Hawai`i, can move quickly, and is much larger with a larger head in proportion to its body. LFA can produce painful stings and large red welts and may cause blindness in pets. They can build up very large colonies on the ground, in trees and other vegetation, and inside buildings and homes and completely overrun a property.
For information on Stop the Ant campaign and how to request an ant-collection kit, go to: http://stoptheant.org/
For more information on LFA in Hawai`i, go to the HAL website at: http://www.littlefireants.com/
Any suspected invasive species should be reported to the state’s toll-free PEST HOTLINE – 643-PEST (7378).