MILILANI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hundreds of concerned Oahu residents filled the seats of Mililani-Mauka Elementary School cafeteria Monday evening to brainstorm a plan of eradicating a tiny species creating a big problem.
Some drove as far as Hawaii Kai, because although Hawaii Department of Agriculture officials have pinpointed an exact location of the Little Fire Ants infestation, they said it's possible the pests hitched a ride to other areas on the island.
"It's just a shame. We've known about this problem for years," said Albert Perez, Sierra Club Oahu representative.
Perez grew up in Mililani Mauka. He, like hundreds of others, are concerned about how far these little pests can spread.
"They're saying that they can contain this. However, if you look at our community, we have many many ravines and ridges throughout our community," said chairman of the neighborhood board Dean Hazama.
Some were so worried, they brought ant specimens collected at their homes and gave them to agriculture officials who checked them out with a microscope.
The original problem was reported on Auina Street. They later found the pests in the gulch northwest of the street. Then noticed it had spread even across the gully to Kopalani Street.
Hawaii Department of Agriculture official Rob Curtiss says after surveying the area, they now know exactly how widespread the damage is.
"We know for certain this time that the ants are isolated to Milliani Mauka that we knew were infested before. We finished our survey and we didn't find little fire ants further spread than we originally thought," Curtiss said.
He says the infestation is isolated to 15 to 20 properties including a gulch.
Luckily, he says the ant spreads very slowly, about 60 feet per year. But Curtiss says people can spread it pretty quickly.
"If people are living in an infested area and they move flowers, fruits & vegetables that they've grown, if they move children's toys things like that, very easy to move it from Milliani Mauka to another area," said Curtiss.
Curtiss says their plan to eradicate the invasive insect is possible through pesticides and community participation. But he says one person refusing treatment can stop that plan all together.
"We need everyone in the community that's in the infested area to allow their property to be treated. If there's one property that refuses treatment, then the whole program is shut down. We need everyone to be involved in getting rid of this ant it is that serious," he said.
Curtiss says residents reported having been bit four years ago. That tells them the pests could have been in the area for at least ten years.
He says it take at least a year before they will stop seeing the ants. Then another three to four years after that until they are confident it is all gone.