The Hawaii Ant Lab (HAL) along with neighbor island Invasive Species Committees (ISCs) and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) have been tasked with survey and early detection at many ports of entry throughout the State of Hawaii. We conduct what is called a general comprehensive ant survey which we cover all high risk areas in a port of entry with many types of lures. All ants need sugars, proteins, and fats to survive. Just like in fishing, you need the right bait for the fish you want to catch. Some ants are more attracted to one substance over another. The lures consist of vials with a small amount of jelly or a mixture of Spam and peanut butter we affectionately refer to as Sputter (yum)! These surveys are conducted regularly and the frequency depends on whether or not highly invasive ants have been detected at the location previously. Ants of all kinds will be attracted to the lures and are collected and identified under a microscope to species. If an invasive ant of high concern such as Little Fire Ant (LFA) is detected, a treatment regimen is started to help control or remove the population to reduce risk of contaminating other islands, states, or countries.
Image above: Kiyoshi Adachi ready to survey the Kona Airport and showing off his highly technical method of containing the jelly and Sputter baits.
If a new potentially devastating ant is detected, full containment eradication responses would occur to prevent it taking root in an area. All HAL staff is trained in the identification of worse ants, such as the Red Imported Fire Ant (RIFA). It looks very similar to an ant we are all familiar with called the Tropical Fire Ant (Red ant), but is much worse in regards to effects on people and agriculture. Our work is important to help with early detection, but we also depend on the general public surveying and noticing changes in their own backyards. Any ant can be submitted to HAL for identification.
Who knows, you can be the first person to SPOT THE ANT species and help STOP THE ANT before it gets established!!
Image above: illustrated by Jade Miyashiro as a spooky reminder to survey to find out if you have these scary invaders and treat if you want to control them!
Please check out www.stoptheant.org for specific information and resources pertaining to you island or www.littlefireants.com for survey and treatment advice, recipes and instructional videos!