The Hawaii Department of Agriculture has confirmed that the stinging little fire ants, or LFA, have infested a Mililani Mauka neighborhood.
This is the first incident of LFA in a residential area on Oahu since the ants were detected on the island in December 2013. Previous infestations have been at distributors of hapuu logs, garden shops, landscape projects, commercial nurseries and on state land near nurseries in Waimanalo.
On Friday, agriculture department crews, the Oahu Invasive Species Committee, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Coordinating Group on Alien Species, surveyed homes on Auina St. using peanut butter baiting.
Initial surveys indicate that at least six homes are positive for LFA. Crews also canvassed the neighborhood leaving informational flyers on how to detect and report suspected LFA infestations.
On June 18, a Mililani Mauka resident who lives on Auina St. brought ant samples to HDOA after family members reported ant bites for at least several weeks inside the home. On June 19, HDOA staff surveyed the property and found LFA in all four corners of the property. Further surveying was done on four adjacent yards and LFA was found along the property lines. Surveys did not detect LFA further into the adjacent homes. Staff immediately treated the LFA infested areas with a pesticide.
On June 23, a resident who lives three homes away from the initial infestation site submitted ant samples to HDOA saying their home had these ants for "a couple of years," along with a neighbor's home. State entomologists confirmed it was LFA and agree that, given the apparent size and scope of the infestation, LFA could have been in the neighborhood for years.
"The increasing number of homes involved is concerning," said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. "We urge residents to take the time to check their homes and yards for this ant and report it as soon as possible."
Since the LFA detection in December, HDOA and partner agencies have been asking residents on Oahu and Maui to survey their homes. 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 here.
In addition, the Department of Land and Natural Resources has produced a three-minute video, "How to Test for LFA," which shows the step-by-step procedure for testing for LFA. Click here for the video.
LFA has been found on Hawaii Island since 1999. In December 2013, LFA was detected on hapuu logs (Hawaiian fern) at retail stores on Maui and Oahu. Since its detection, Oahu and Maui nurseries have been surveyed. Five Oahu nurseries, three of which were in Waimanalo, were found to have small infestations of LFA, the areas were treated and are clear of the ants.
In late May, crews began treating a 6-acre area in Waimanalo, which included a 3.5 acre infestation area and buffer zone. Crews continue to conduct follow-up treatments at the Waimanalo site.
Originally from South America, LFA is considered among the world’s worst invasive species.
LFA are tiny ants, measuring 1/16th inch long, are pale orange in color. LFA move slowly, unlike the Tropical Fire Ant, which is established in Hawaii, move quickly, and are much larger with a larger head in proportion to its body. LFA can produce painful stings and large red welts and may cause blindness in pets. They can build up very large colonies on the ground, in trees and other vegetation, and buildings and homes and completely overrun a property.
Suspected invasive species should be reported to the state’s toll-free PEST HOTLINE – 643-PEST (7378).
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