The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) 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 (LFA). LFA 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 Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.
HDOA 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 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.
LFA was first detected on Maui in 2009 on an organic farm in Waihee. The infestation was successfully eradicated in one year following the eradication protocol developed by Dr. Casper Vanderwoude of the Hawaii Ant Lab and the ongoing efforts of the Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC). In late 2013, LFA was found on Maui and traced to infested hapu`u logs imported from Hawaii Island, where LFA is widely established.
Originally from South America, LFA is considered among the world’s worst invasive species. LFA are tiny ants, measuring 1/16th of an inch long, are pale orange in color and move slowly, unlike the tropical fire ant which moves quickly and are much larger with a larger head in proportion to its body. Tropical fire ants have been well established in Hawaii since before the 1870’s. LFA can produce painful stings and large red welts and may cause blindness in pets. They 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 LFA in Hawaii, go to the HDOA website: http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/pi/main/lfainfo/