Pest of the Month Update – Little Fire Ant (LFA), Wasmannia auropunctata.
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture has confirmed that the LFA has spread from Big Island to Maui and Oahu.
Hosts: LFA are found both on the ground and in vegetation. They climb onto plants of all sizes, including trees, but they easily fall off when plants are disturbed. Pruning branches, harvesting fruit, or picking flowers in infested areas can cause LFA to rain down in large numbers.
- Distribution: LFA is native to Central and South America but has spread throughout the Pacific. LFA are transported to new sites in potted plants, or on plant materials, green waste, and rubbish.
- Damage: LFA are serious pests that infest yards and agricultural fields and will move into houses and other structures. The bites from these very tiny ants initially hurt then may cause welts, followed by intense itching that can last for two weeks or more. Multiple stings to the eyes can result in blindness by secondary infection or even death of newly born or small animals.
- Control: You can help by looking out for LFA, and reporting their presence to 643-PEST. The best way to detect LFA is to place several peanut butter coated sticks (approximately 10-12 yds. apart) around your property, preferably in shade, in plants and at the base of trees. Wait about an hour. Pick up the sticks and place then in a sealable plastic bag, and examine the ants on the peanut butter. Are they red-orange? Are they no longer than 1/18 inch (the thickness of a penny)? Are they slow moving, and do they fall off the stick easily when you tap the side of the stick? If you answered yes to these questions, you may have the LFA and should contact HDOA.
- Pesticide Use: Do not treat the LFA with a pesticide until the population has been reported and mapped. HDOA will advise you how to proceed if you do have a LFA infestation.
Please Kokua! Stop the Little Fire Ant!