What can you do? Test your yard or property for little fire ants!
Current Status on Oʻahu
Note that these ants may be present anywhere on Oahu, and the status report is only for infestations that were discovered and reported. We need your help to find them before colonies grow too large to eradicate. Oʻahu has the highest population of all the islands, which means that we have a greater chance of catching little fire ants before they become established. Find them before they find you…survey your yard and submit your ant samples to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
It may be helpful to understand that it takes at least 4 years to eradicate an infestation of little fire ants! The Hawaiʻi Ant Lab tested and recommends a 4-year treatment and monitoring regime to eradicate little fire ant infestations. This consists of a full survey to find the edge of the infestation, followed by treatments of the area (plus treatment of a “buffer zone” around the edge) every 6-8 weeks over the course of one year. At the end of the year, an intensive survey is conducted to detect any remaining little fire ants. If ants are found, that site is treated in the same manner for an additional year. If and when no ants are found, the site moves into the next phase of the eradication program, which is quarterly surveys for 3 years. Only at the end of this treatment and monitoring regime can an infestation be considered eradicated.
Infested materials have, and continue to slip through inspection, and small pockets of little fire ants are still being found in and around nursery and landscaping businesses. These businesses are cooperating fully with HDOA and OISC to survey for, and treat these pests. The success of eradication efforts to date are largely the result of vigilance and cooperation, guided by good science.
Background: Located on an abandoned lot, this was the first large infestation discovered on Oʻahu. Detected in April 2014, the infestation and treatment area is roughly seven acres. Based on the size of the population, LFA had likely gone unnoticed and/or unreported for several years before it was detected. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture, the Hawaii Ant Lab and the Oʻahu Invasive Species Committee conducted ten treatments between May 2014 and April 2015,
Current Status: Monitoring Phase with Spot Treatment; LFA detected in one tree. The infestation in Waimanalo also received 1 year of treatment cycles, although during the post-treatment survey, a handful of little fire ants were found in and around a large tree within the treatment area. Therefore, that particular area (around and in the tree) will be treated for an additional year. The rest of the site will be surveyed quarterly until the end of 2018.
Background: Mililani Mauka is the second large infestation detected on Oʻahu and the only known infested residential site. In June 2014, a resident brought samples to HDOA after being stung and because of this, the infestation was discovered while it was relatively small (about 20 adjoining properties & green spaces). Equally important, all the neighbors allowed staff on their property to test for and treat the ants. Beginning in August 2014, HDOA, Hawaii Ant Lab and OISC began treating every six weeks.
Current Status: Monitoring Phase, meaning that the area was treated for 1 year and no little fire ants were detected at the post-treatment survey. The site will be monitored for little fire ants quarterly until the end of 2018 (unless ants are detected again).
*LFA queens walk to start new colonies (instead of flying away to start a new colony), so an infestation grows only about 60 feet per year. Of course, we spread LFA much more effectively when we accidentally move their colonies hidden in plants, cut flowers, fruit, or other materials from infested areas. It is possible to stop LFA from invading Oʻahu, but we need your help to find them. TEST YOUR PROPERTY at least once a year, or anytime you bring new plants or high-risk materials to your property. Samples of dead ants may be submitted to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
- Smear a thin coat of peanut butter on one end of a disposable chopstick or popsicle stick. If you are allergic to peanuts, use small pieces of luncheon meat and tongs to retrieve the pieces.
- Place sticks in shady areas in, around, and on plants, including potted plants. For a thorough survey, place at least three sticks per plant, and/or one stick every two feet. Leave the sticks out for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- Carefully pick up the sticks (so the ants don’t fall off!), and seal them in a plastic bag. Write your name, contact number, and the date on the bag and freeze for 24 hours to kill the ants. An address is helpful, but not required.
- Just because you have ants, doesn’t mean they are little fire ants. Some ants are look-a-likes and require an expert to identify them. Turn in ALL ant samples for identification and peace of mind.
On Oʻahu you can mail or drop off your ant samples to: HDOA: 1428 S. King Street., Honolulu, HI 96814