State draws criticism over Little Fire Ant problem

Little Fire Ant
Little Fire Ant

A documentary on Little Fire Ants will be shown at the State Capitol on Tuesday showing just how bad it can get where they have spread.

People who have been bitten have welts and talk about the agonizing pain, while pets have gone blind.

The state told KHON2 on Friday that Little Fire Ants have been on Oahu for at least a year, which has drawn some criticism.

“I don’t think at this point that they have done enough. I think they have the mindset now at least. They’re heading in that direction,” said Tim Lyons, Hawaii Pest Control Association.

Lyons says the state needs to set up monitoring and bait stations to get a better idea on the level of infestation, and do more inspections and monitoring of shipments between the islands. Otherwise, we could have a similar problem that we’re having now with coqui frogs.

“At one point, the coqui frog the problem was pretty isolated and then it just kind of expanded as people didn’t do enough. And we don’t want that to turn into the same situation here,” Lyons said.

“This may be a similar situation. It’s too early to tell. We need to get a lot more information,” said Neil Reimer, Department of Agriculture.

The state admits it is possible. But of the 20 sites on Oahu where the Little Fire Ants have been spotted, Reimer says those areas have been treated and could be eradicated.

“You don’t know right away. We went in, we treated it. They’re gone. We have to follow that up every few months to make sure it’s totally died out,” Reimer said.

Reimer says more can be done with more resources, which is why it will partner up with other agencies to come up with a strategic plan. And it’s counting on the state legislature for help.

“There are multiple funding mechanisms and efforts, but it’s not gonna be cheap no matter what we do. So if we really want to try to address this problem, we have to spend some money,” said Rep. Jessica Wooley, Agriculture Committee Chairwoman.

The state plans to reveal its plan on Thursday and will also ask the public to test around their backyard by using peanut butter on a stick. That will give the state a better idea on how much the infestation has spread.

Related story: State: Little Fire Ant problem on Oahu much worse

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