The Hawaii Department of Agriculture obtained a court-ordered warrant and entered the property of a Maui resident who has continuously denied access to the property that was suspected of being infested with little fire ants.
The ants were detected in the Huelo neighborhood in early 2015 and surrounding properties have been under treatment to eradicate the stinging ants. With the warrant, HDOA Chairperson Scott Enright and department pest control personnel were able to survey the 1.75-acre property on Monday, Sept. 12, and found LFA infestations in potted plants and kalo patches.
“After months of unsuccessful discussions with the resident, the department was forced to take legal action in order to have any chance of eradicating this serious threat to the state,” said Enright.
The department has not taken this type of legal action since 2000 during the eradication efforts for banana bunchy top virus on Hawaii Island. Usually, the department tries to work cooperatively with residents, farms and nurseries to eradicate invasive pests.
Eradication efforts to get rid of the ants have been extremely successful on Oahu, in Mililani and Waimanalo, mainly due to the cooperation of residents and residential associations.
HDOA crews will return to the Huelo property to begin treatment of the infestation. Treatment of the Huelo property will include appropriate treatment for the kalo because it is an edible crop.
The invasive little fire ants were first detected on Maui in 2009 on an organic farm in Waihee. In late 2013, the ants were found again on Maui and traced to infested hapu’u logs imported from Hawaii Island, where little fire ants are widely established.
Tropical fire ants have been well established in Hawaii since before the 1870s. They can produce painful stings and large red welts and may cause blindness in pets. The ants can build up very large colonies on the ground, in trees and other vegetation, buildings and homes and may completely overrun a property to the point of abandonment.
For more information on little fire ants in Hawaii, click here.