Group aims to fight off little fire ant infestation

Group aims to fight off little fire ant infestation

From Stop the Ant:

When a homeowner in Mililani Mauka saw a news report on stinging Little Fire Ants (LFA), he took action.  For four years the family that the family had lived in the house, they battled tiny ants that would come inside and sting them as they slept.  They followed the directions for testing for LFA by setting out disposable chopsticks with a smear of peanut butter, waiting an hour, then gathering the sticks into a zip top bag, freezing them to kill the ants, and sending them to the Hawai?i Department of Agriculture for identification.

The ending is good for this particular homeowner, and the 18 adjacent properties that made up this particular infestation of Little Fire Ants—HDOA, the Hawai?i Ant Lab, Oahu Invasive Species Committee and others worked with the community to get rid of the ants.

However, every week HDOA inspectors continue to intercept these ants in commodities being shipped or moved from infested areas on the Big Island. They've been found in produce, plants, cut flowers, and even vehicles and roofing materials.  There is a real chance of these ants being transported to your property or a neighbor's property.  The lesson here is that the public's help is crucial in finding these pests early, while there is still a chance at eradication.

October is Spot the Ant, Stop the Ant Month, and residents and businesses are urged to test their properties for ants—use peanut butter, or, if you are allergic you can use small pieces of baloney or luncheon meat, or even mayonnaise—but test your yard, freeze the sample and send it to the Hawai?i Department of Agriculture office for identification. Testing once per year is the goal.

When LFA were found to have moved in shipments of hapu`u logs that were being sold in garden shops and nurseries in December 2014, a multi-agency/non-government organization working group was formed to survey high risk businesses for these ants, and treat known infestations such as the one in Mililani Mauka.  However, some of those logs had already been sold to the public and there was no way to trace them, so outreach specialists joined the group to help raise public awareness.

There are currently no technologies or treatments that will allow us to eradicate LFA from the Big Island, and even keeping ants at low numbers on individual properties can only be achieved through understanding the unusual habits of LFA and consistent use of the control techniques designed specifically for these ants.

Spot the Ant, Stop the Ant Month reminds the public that testing for LFA is particularly important, and it should become a habit.  We are asking for some time on the morning news to share the information about LFA, the importance of testing, the value of residents taking action, and hopefully a demo of how to do the survey.  Mahalo for your consideration.