Hawaii bills would regulate best methods to fight fire ants

HILO, Hawaii — Two bills introduced by Hawaii legislators would require the state Department of Agriculture to identify the best ways to fight fire ants.

The bills would require the agriculture department to work with the Hawaii Ant Lab to identify the best practices to control the insects, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Thursday.

The House bill introduced by Democratic Rep. Nicole Lowen would require pest control operators to use guidelines posted on the agriculture department’s website as a result of the research.

The Senate bill introduced by Democratic Sen. Russell Ruderman would allow the state Pest Control Board to revoke, suspend or refuse to renew any licenses of operators that do not follow the practices.

Lowen, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, said reports indicate not all pest control operators inform customers about the best treatment options.

There have been no previous requirements imposed on operators for their work with invasive species, she said.

While there was some support for Ruderman’s bill, there also was significant opposition during a Feb. 7 meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Environment.

Tim Lyons, executive director of the Hawaii Pest Control Association, said his organization opposes the bill.

“Our opposition is that the Hawaii Ant Lab is not the ‘be all to end all.’ It is not the only expert and authority on controlling ants,” Lyons wrote.

Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairwoman of the state Board of Agriculture, said the agriculture department also opposes the measure.

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