LIHU‘E — A new detection of Little Fire Ants (LFA) has been found on Kaua‘i in the Moloa‘a area.
This new infestation is the largest known infestation on Kaua‘i with LFA confirmed in over 13 acres. The treatment area is estimated to exceed that.
In July, a concerned farmer submitted suspected LFA samples to the Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committee (KISC). KISC and Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture teams are currently conducting delimiting surveys to determine the size of the infestation.
The first known LFA population on Kaua‘i was contained to 11 acres in Kalihiwai. HDOA, KISC, and the Hawai‘i Ant Lab’s multiyear eradication efforts have proved promising with the last LFA detected at the site in January 2019. The second known LFA population has been contained to 2.5 acres with treatment proving promising again as the last detection of LFA at the site was in March 2020. These teams are currently developing a treatment plan for the new infestation.
This new infestation is particularly concerning because of the potential impacts to the agricultural community on Kaua‘i.
LFA can easily infest agricultural fields and farms, where they can damage crops and sting workers. They promote plant pests such as aphids, white flies and scale insects, which secrete plant sap that the ants eat. The ants then protect these insects from natural predators and parasites. Due to LFA’s excellent hitch-hiking skills and their potential impact to all agriculture on Kaua‘i, it is important for Kaua‘i farmers to survey and detect any possible LFA early.
“These ants will be devastating for our island if they become widespread,” said Tiffani Keanini, manager of the Kaua‘i Invasive Species Committee. “If LFA are detected quickly and treatment begins early, they can be eradicated, but the longer they have to establish, the more difficult the problem becomes.”
KISC and HDOA have partnered with Malama Kaua‘i and the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau to encourage farmers on Kaua‘i to survey their farms for LFA, free LFA survey kits will be available for their vendors and members. Residents or businesses can pick up an LFA testing kit at your local library or call KISC at 808-821-1490.
Originally from South America, LFA is considered among the world’s worst invasive species. LFA are tiny ants, measuring one-sixteenth inch long, and pale orange in color. LFA can produce painful stings and large red welts and may cause blindness in pets and livestock. They build large super-colonies on the ground, in trees and other vegetation, as well as, inside buildings and homes. Once established, LFA will completely overrun a property or farm.
LFA are much smaller than tropical red ants and black ants and can often travel undetected which makes them very easy to unknowingly spread. Highly-skilled hitch-hikers, these tiny ants spread by stowing away in potted plants, flowers, and other cargo, where they go undetected. LFA can be present in low numbers and stay under the radar in a new location for long periods before they are noticed.