Billions of tiny fire ants have been discovered in a remote four-acre parcel in Waimanalo. But the state said it's confident that it will be able to eradicate the pests.
"The colonies are huge and they're interconnected and there's billions of individuals," said Rob Curtiss, acting manager of the state Department of Agriculture's Plant Pest Control Branch.
The state has set up a buffer zone around the affected area, which includes an empty gulch and state owned land leased to several nurseries.
The state said it will begin spraying and cutting back some of the vegetation next week to halt the growth of the colonies.
"It's relatively small so we think we can contain and eradicate it unlike the Big Island where it's very widespread," Curtiss said.
It's the first confirmed infestation on Oahu. And the colonies likely got here by hitching a ride on hapuu logs imported from Big Island, where the ants are running roughshod over the terrain.
"On the Big Island, it's all over Puna, Hilo and moving into Hamakua," said Curtiss.
"There are farms that have been abandoned because the little fire ants getting in there and not allowing farm workers to pick fruit."
Although they're just one-sixteenth of an inch, little fire ants pack a powerful sting. It can cause blindness in pets and result in painful welts on humans.
So far, the Oahu infestation has been confined to a remote gulch near Waikapunaha and Kakaina streets.
During the past two weeks, state officials have conducted surveys of a 50-acre area surrounding the area near several nurseries where the first colonies were found.
The state says the public can help exterminate the pests by sending samples if they come across suspected little fire ants in their homes.
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