Little Fire Ants
We’ve all heard about the Little Fire Ants invading our islands. So far, the little fire ants have made their way from the Big Island to Maui, to Oahu, and also to Kauai. There are none known to be present on Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, or Kahoolawe yet, but we all need to be vigilant. Little fire ants are on the list of the world’s worst invasive species. Why? These tiny little ants – smaller than most ants – possess the capability of reaching excessive numbers in a short period of time, and destroying crops and forests. In other words, little fire ants in Hawaii could reach such high numbers that it would be economically devastating, and difficult to keep our pets or us from getting stung. So, what are little fire ants and what can we do to help in eradication of these pests?
Little fire ants are about the size of half of a sesame seed; they are hard to see. Little fire ants don’t build mounded dirt nests on the ground like other fire ant species. Instead, the little fire ants nest in potted plants, electrical boxes, water lines, trees, and similar places. Little fire ant infestations have also been found in agricultural crops, in houses, and even at beach parks.
Little fire ants move slowly and have difficulty in hanging on to their habitat. This means that we could get stung accidentally as little fire ants fall from trees. The little fire ant’s sting burns like fire and can be itchy for days. The sting of a little fire ant may even blind dogs and cats. Little fire ant infestations have already resulted in lost agricultural crops.
There are a few things we can all do to help in eradicating little fire ants in Hawaii. First, conduct an occasional survey in and around your property for nesting of little fire ants. Also, be sure to check for infestations in materials that you bring home. Things like plants, agricultural products, construction materials, dirt, and mulch may have little fire ants harboring.
Second, there are two state agencies that really help with identification and control of little fire ants. Hawaii Ant Lab was established to assist in ridding the state of invasive ant species, including the little fire ant. The Hawaii Ant Lab website has a lot of useful information about identifying and controlling these ants around your home or property. The state also has another system – 643Pest Network – that offers the public a venue for reporting invasive species sightings.
It is very hard to completely eradicate a fire ant infestation once it has been established. The best we can all do is to avoid bringing them onto our properties, and to report any suspicions of little fire ant infestations.