October is “Stop the Ant Month” in Hawai`i and this month-long multi-agency effort encourages all residents to collect and submit ants from their properties to help detect and control the spread of invasive little fire ants (LFA) and to detect other harmful pest ants that may be new to the state. With the public’s help, infestations that are detected early enough can be eradicated. Each year, several new LFA infestations are detected by residents participating in this statewide program, each of which prevents millions of dollars in impacts and costs for entire communities. To date, no new ant species have been found, but the risk is high with the volume of imported goods from around the world. Residents may request a free ant-collection kit and watch a 3-minute video on how to collect ants by visiting www.StopTheAnt.org.
Any ants collected should be put in a sealable plastic bag, placed in the freezer for at least 24 hours and dropped off or mailed to the nearest office on your island:
- Oʻahu Invasive Species Committee: 808-266-7994, 743 Ulukahiki Street, Kailua, HI 96734
- Maui/Lanai Invasive Species Committee: 808-573-6472, PO Box 983, Makawao, HI 96768
- Kaua`i Invasive Species Committee: 808-821-1490, 7370K Kuamoo Road, Kapaa, HI 96746
- Molokai/Maui Invasive Species Committee: 808-553-4236, P.O. Box 220, Kualapuu, HI 96757
- Big Island Invasive Species Committee: 808-933-3346, 23 East Kawili Street, Hilo, HI 96720
- Hawai‘i Ant Lab in Hilo: 808-315-5656, C/O Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture, 16 E. Lanikaula Street, Hilo, HI 96720
- Hawai‘i Ant Lab in Kona: 808-209-9014, c/o CTHAR Extension Office, 79-7381 Old Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, HI 96750
Hawai‘i has no native ants and has prioritized the detection of new, harmful ant species, and the management of particularly harmful ant species such as LFA. LFA was first detected in the state on Hawai`i Island in 1999. However, by the time it was detected, the ants were widely disbursed on the island and no effective treatment protocol existed for eradication, primarily because they can nest in vegetation and trees, unlike other species of fire ant. The Hawai‘i Ant Lab was subsequently established to research and develop methods for the eradication and control of LFA.
Efforts on Hawai`i Island are currently focused on preventing spread to neighbor islands and in exported goods, managing high priority sites, and helping the public and communities manage infestations. On other islands, early detection and eradication of LFA is the focus. In addition, there are hundreds of other harmful ant species that are not present in Hawai‘i, but that could arrive by hitchhiking with imported goods. For example, Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA) have been intercepted by ag inspectors at the port. RIFA are an aggressive, stinging ant native to South America that has invaded the southern United States. RIFA are responsible for billions of dollars in agricultural and infrastructure losses and medical costs. Detecting and responding to new harmful ant species to minimize widespread long-term costs is a priority for the state.
Request your free ant collection kit and learn more about LFA and the Stop the Ant Campaign at: https://stoptheant.org/.