Officials confirmed Monday the Little Fire Ant infestation in a Central Oahu neighborhood is worse than initially thought and continues to spread.
Last week, the Dept. of Agriculture said LFA was found in at least eight homes on Auina St. in Mililani Mauka.
On Monday, KHON2 spotted red flags placed in a gulch that runs alongside the street, which indicated that the state was checking to see if LFA had spread. Agriculture inspectors confirmed later in the day that they had.
However, they have yet to determine just how many additional homes across the gulch are now affected.
“We haven’t finished surveying the entire area,” said Rob Curtiss of HDOA. “There’s a much larger area that we’ve identified to survey and that will take us a couple of weeks. We need to survey all those properties. We need to get permission, schedule times to enter and that will take us time.”
Toni Nakamura lives on the opposite side of the gulch and told KHON2 she’s worried about what will happen. “I know the repercussions of the bites can cause blindness in pets, but also coming on to the property when you want to go outside and relax, you risk getting bitten,” she said.
“The state is taking point as far as identifying where the locations are and any locations they find on our property, we will partner with them,” said Millilani Town Association general manager Dave O’Neal.
Officials say once inspectors finish mapping the general area, they will formulate a general plan for eradication.
State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz and Rep. Beth Fukumoto plan to holding a town hall meeting the week of July 14 to discuss how they can work together to stop the spread of Little Fire Ants. Details have yet to be determined.
However, the state says education remains a top priority.
“The best thing to do is to educate people, to let them know why the little fire ant is a problem and what they can do to prevent it from moving around. The number one reason that little fire ant moves around is because people are moving things around.”
Officials say because of limited staff and funds, the agriculture department will soon be unable to combat the little fire ant on its own.
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.
If you suspect LFA in your neighborhood, call the state’s pest hotline at 643-PEST (7378).
An informational flyer may be downloaded here.
In addition, the Department of Land and Natural (DLNR) Resources has produced a three-minute video, “How to Test for LFA,” which shows the step-by-step procedure for testing for LFA.
Originally from South America, LFA is considered among the world’s worst invasive species. LFA are tiny ants, measuring 1/16-inch long and are pale orange in color. They 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.
For updated information on LFA in Hawaii, go to the HDOA website.