State: Little Fire Ant problem on Oahu much worse

Little Fire Ant
Little Fire Ant

State officials say Little Fire Ants came to Oahu from the Big Island though hapuu logs and ferns.

An Oahu nursery owner, who didn’t want to be identified, ordered 75 of them and discovered they were infested.

“Oh no. Bad, bad news,” the owner said.

He notified the state, which confirmed what he had feared.

“The state came in and treated it, test and told me where it was so we treated more on that area, but we treated all the area,” the owner said.

Using ant bait, he feels he has gotten rid of them, but more tests need to be done to make sure. The hapuu logs he ordered can’t be sold.

State officials say there are about 20 confirmed infestations on Oahu, mostly nurseries and garden shops. And the colonies have spread to the surrounding areas.

“Based on what we’re seeing in the field and this huge population level and spreading outside the nurseries, we estimate that that ant has been on this island for over a year now and just had not been detected,” said Neil Reimer, plant and pest control director for the Department of Agriculture.

The tiny orange-colored ant is known to pack an electric shock type sting, causing massive swelling in humans, and can sting pets eyes causing them to go blind.

Reimer says the ants are able to spread not just through the hapuu ferns, but through something a lot more common, like cars.

“If someone parks a car on the side where there’s an infestation of this and the ants will move into the car. And it doesn’t take too many of them, just a queen and some workers that car drives of those ants will drop of and start a colony somewhere else,” Reimer said.

The state Department of Agriculture plans to meet with different agencies to come up with a strategic plan on how to tackle the problem.

A widespread infestation could severely impact agriculture and tourism.

The state says the problem on Maui is not as bad because it was caught earlier.

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