Posted by: Anna Webb | June 27, 2009

Little Fire Ants (LFA) Are Alive and Well in Lower Puna


(Photo of little fire ant coming soon)

I had an upclose and personal experience today with these little buggers and I can attest to the punch behind their sting. The latest in a series of invasive species, is the little fire ant. Not to be confused with its larger “cousin”, the red ant or tropical fire ant, the little fire ant is half its size and its sting is much longer lasting. Possessing the ability to blind and/or kill small animals, this nasty creature has invaded Hawaii’s Big Island.

Native to Central and South America, the little fire ant (LFA) was first discovered in HPP in 1999 and they have slowly but surely spread hopping on board human transports. They are fond of dropping from trees and burrowing into your clothing. That’s when they attack and sink their chompers into your unsuspecting skin. It feels as if someone is sticking a needle into you, then it radiates out in a 3-4 inch diameter. The entire area around the bite reddens at first, then after about a half hour you can see the red welt of the original sting. ‘Tis the season, as they say  – at Pahoa Hardware store today I was told they’d had other calls about them just this morning. That was evident as I only found one bag left on the shelf of one of just 4 products that are effective in eliminating them.

Imagine this, they are only the size of the tip of a pencil. Slow moving, their entire colony can fit inside of a macadamia nut shell. Bizarre, eh? Oh, it gets more interesting. They will “take out” anything in their way, no matter the size. According to the Global Invasive Species Database of issg.org it has been noted that there has been a marked reduction in scorpions, spiders and other ant species within the areas they’ve invaded. In addition, the Queens are cloned. This sounds more and more like the basis for one of those cheesy sci-fi movies on TV on Saturday afternoons! It’s no wonder they have been nominated as among 100 of the “World’s Worst” invaders, according to issg.org. Quite a large designation for such a tiny critter.

Regular ant traps just won’t do when it comes to battling these miniature menaces. According to the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) Amdro® Pro, Siege® Pro (both hydramethylnon), Extinguish® Plus (hydramethylnon and methoprene) and Conserve™ Professional Fire Ant Bait (spinosad) are effective in stopping them. I’m not a fan of harsh chemical pesticides but I’m also not a fan of their bad manners.  It’s hard to find current information on them, too. Most of the information has been updated as of 2007 but there doesn’t seem to be an updated map available of areas in which they are located. Regardless, I can certainly state that they are alive and well in Lower Puna.

Some people are allergic to their sting so to be safe, I took an antihistamine today. So far so good, but I was told today to expect severe itching to flare up periodically for up to two weeks. I was disheartened to hear this since the bites are on my back and just out of reach of my hands. I’d better carry a back scratcher around for a while.

The following links provide good information on the little fire ants (LFA) including how to catch them, where to take them for verification, and how to proceed for eradication. Just remember, they may look tiny and amble slower than the average ant, but they are anything but average.

Global Invasive Species Database

http://www.issg.org/database/species/ecology.asp?si=58&fr=1&sts=

Brochure: Please kokua! Stop the Little Fire Ant

http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/IP-LFA.pdf

State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture – updated February 2007

http://hawaii.gov/hdoa/pi/ppc/npa-1/npa99-02-lfireant.pdf

Hawaii Health Guide, Oct. 2007

http://www.hawaiihealthguide.com/healthtalk/display.htm?id=613

7 years later – they are still talking about “What we need to do”…now that they are wide spread, will it help?

Fire Ant video on YouTube

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Responses

  1. Try baking soda paste for the itching… might work, like it does for bee stings…
    As for the fire ants.. I’ve noticed many, many ant hills around my yard this year. Usually one or two, but this year.. they are patched all over the yard..ALL OVER.. and they aren’t regular looking hills either.. these are made different, and the dirt they use seems much darker red then the norm. Although, I’ve NOT attempted to kick one over to see if they are the fire ants or not, but I’ve no doubt this is what they are. Now I not only have to watch out for the Bee’s, but now the many small ant hills in my yard, because I fear my dog may also be allergic to them…

  2. So far I find no signs of them up this way, but just a few year’s ago we didn’t have any coqui frogs up here, either…..:-(

    Sorry you got bit, Anna. I’ve heard they can really sting and itch for awhile….

  3. Gawd I hate these critters! I battle them around my house in HPP and there seems nothing I do will turn the tide for any extended period of time. Have you heard about how folks on the mainland are using a parasite fly to treat the problem? These bugs turn the ants into wandering zombies until their heads explode. Muahaha!
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2009/05/18/parasitic-flies-turn-troublesome-fire-ants-into-wandering-zombies/

  4. I did hear of that Mike. That really makes for a “B” Sci-fi movie! Bizarre…

  5. For more info about the little fire ant (LFA), see:

    http://www.hear.org/species/wasmannia_auropunctata/

    …and for more information about ants in Hawaii:

    http://www.hear.org/ants/

    Aloha,
    pt@hear.org


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