LFA Infestations Popping up Across Hawai‘i

October 27, 2019, 4:45 PM HST (Updated October 27, 2019, 4:45 PM)
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Little fire ants can deliver a painful sting and welts that can last for weeks. HISC photo.

Little fire ants have been ubiquitous in Hilo for decades and continue to proliferate in West Hawai‘i.

The rest of the state is trying to stop the same from happening, as multi-agency efforts continue in the eradication of (LFA). Several new infestations have been detected on O‘ahu and Kaua‘i.

There are currently seven sites being treated on O‘ahu, two on Maui and one on Kaua‘i for infestation of LFA. October is Stop the Ant Month, which reminds residents to be aware and check for LFA in their homes and yards.

On O‘ahu, neighborhoods in Kaneohe, Ahuimanu, Lanikai, Kualoa, Makiki Heights, Pauoa and Laie are currently being treated. Areas in Wailuku and Waihee on Maui and Kilauea on Kaua‘i are also being treated for infestations.

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“The increasing number of LFA detections in previously uninfested areas should be cause for concern for everyone,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Hawai‘i Board of Agriculture. “It is imperative that residents check their properties periodically to prevent the spread of infestations in their neighborhoods.”

The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA), Hawaii Ant Lab (HAL) and partner agencies, including the Hawai‘i Invasive Species Council, the Invasive Species Committees on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, and Maui County and the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS) have been asking residents on O‘ahu, Kaua‘i and Maui County to survey their properties for LFA by using a little peanut butter on a chopstick and leaving them in several areas for about one hour.

Any ants collected should be put in a sealable plastic bag, placed in the freezer for at least 24 hours and dropped off or mailed to any HDOA office. An informational flyer may be downloaded online.

In addition, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) 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 online.

LFA was first detected in the state on Hawai‘i Island in 1999. However, by the time it was found, the ants were widely disbursed on the island and no treatment protocol existed for eradication.

The HAL was then established to research the best method of eradication and control of LFA. The treatment plans developed by HAL and HDOA entomologists have been very successful in eradicating new infestations. The protocol uses several types of pesticides and bait formulas applied on a six-week interval for a total of eight treatments.

Originally from South America, LFA is considered among the world’s worst invasive species. LFA are tiny ants, measuring 1/16th inch long and are pale orange in color. LFA move slowly, unlike the tropical fire ant, which is established in Hawai‘i, can move quickly and is 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 inside buildings and homes and completely overrun a property.

Suspected invasive species should be reported to the state’s toll-free pest hotline at 643-PEST (7378).

For more information on LFA in Hawai‘i, go to the HAL website. For more information on Stop the Ant campaign, go online.

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