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Maui Invasive Species Committee continues to battle little fire ants in Waihee

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 7:42 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 26, 2021 at 7:57 PM HST
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WAIHEE (HawaiiNewsNow) - The battle against little fire ants continues on Maui after more of the biting pests were believed to be found in Waihee, a remote area on the island’s northwest side, on Monday.

“A week or two weeks ago, we found a new hot spot. So, we’re just trying to figure out if it’s connected, or if some ants got swept downstream,” said Mikiala Puaa-Freitas, a Waihee resident and member of Maui Invasive Species Committee.

Little fire ants were first discovered in Maui in Waihee in 2009. Freitas found a separate location in Waihee in 2019 and called the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

“They did a mass survey, and they were like, ‘Oh, it’s a lot bigger than we thought,” Freitas said. “Boom, they had all hands on deck.”

MISC’s little fire ant (LFA) crew work daily to control the populations on Maui. Since 2009, there have been 18 known locations across the island. Of those, only six are currently active.

“I would say it’s shrinking here on Maui. It’s well under control. We have six active sites out of 18 and those that are active are shrinking and/or greatly diminished at this point in time,” said Brooke Mahnken, MISC’s LFA Coordinator.

MISC’s LFA crew was out surveying in Waihee on Monday morning.

“I have some baited vials with peanut butter,” said Freitas. “I place my vial kind of nestled into the ground and then mark it with my flag.”

About 45 minutes later, they found little orange ants around the peanut butter in one of the vials.

“It’s most likely LFA,” Freitas said.

Crewmembers were also laying out toxic bait and birth control to stop the ants from spreading to other areas on the Valley Isle.

“The queens can respond by producing a lot more workers to replace the ones that die from the toxic bait and in this case, they’ll be on birth control and so it acts as a one-two-punch and it’s much more effective than using just one or the other,” Mahnken said.

Aside from the stinging, little fire ants can blind your pets and devastate the ecosystem.

“Whatever it takes, we have to get rid of these ants,” said Freitas.

MISC encourages residents to test their properties at least once a year.

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