Little fire ants invade Mililani Mauka neighborhood
MILILANI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - One of the world's worst invasive species has been found in a larger area of a residential neighborhood on Oahu than initially thought.
An army of insect experts made the find in a Mililani Mauka neighborhood while going after an army of newly discovered little fire ants.
"This ant lives in trees, in the lawn, in your car, in your house, in your mailbox. It could potentially anywhere," said Robert Curtiss, Little Fire Ant Response Team Incident Commander.
"It really triggered me last night. I'm kind of afraid," said Marissa Mull, Auina Street Resident.
Members of various agencies baited this neighborhood on Auina Street with vials of peanut butter. Then they came back an hour later and found several samples swarming with little fire ants.
"Anytime that it's in a neighborhood and it's this size it's really going to be difficult to deal with and a really big problem, for people for pets," said Curtiss.
They can even take a bite out of home values.
"It's going to be hard for people to sell houses that have little fire ants because nobody is going to want to move into a house that has ants that sting them at night," said Curtiss.
That does happen. Ants would come into Jordan Lee's bedroom when he was a baby and sting the little guy.
"They would come up the crib into his mattress where he was sleeping and had a feast," said Joseph Lee, whose son was bit by the fire ants.
Others were also bit while tidying up inside their home.
"Just cleaning and I felt something bite me, but they're really tiny they are like pinpoint kind of," said Michele Ae, who says the welts from the bites lasted two weeks. "Real sore. Kind of almost like a mosquito bite. It was really itchy but more painful than itchy."
They first noticed the ants four years ago, but back then they didn't know to report it to the state.
Now to keep these little terrors from spreading more the state will bait in as many places as possible, but the tiny ant won't disappear quickly.
"It can take many years before we're sure that it is gone," said Curtiss.
In this case the infestation is worse than the state thought. Ants are in the gulch next to Auina Street and in the Koala Street neighborhood on the other side of the gully. The fear is the state may lose the war with the ants and they'll spread all over the island.
"I'm really concerned because my wife is very sensitive to insect bites, so I'm hoping they don't make it to my house," said Kopalani Street resident Darrel Yoshino.
"It becomes something like termite control. It's not something that is feasible for a department to deal with," said Curtiss.
If that happens people would have to call their own exterminator.
"Kill them before they get us," said Ae.
To test for LFA, residents are instructed to use a little peanut butter on a chopstick and leave them in several areas for about one hour. Any ants collected should be put in a sealable plastic bag, placed in the freezer for 24 hours and dropped off or mailed to any HDOA office. An informational flyer may be downloaded at: http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/pi/files/2014/05/LFASurvey.pdf
In addition, the Department of Land and Natural (DLNR) 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 at: https://vimeo.com/97558997
Copyright 2014 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.