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County: Hapu‘u purchases should be checked for little fire ants

By Staff | Jan 23, 2014

Little fire ants are much smaller than the common tropical fire ants.

WAILUKU – The county Mayor’s Office is working with the state Department of Agriculture (DOA) to get the word out about an infestation of little fire ants on Maui.

According to DOA officials, the ants spread to Maui from Hawaii Island back in December. However, further investigation has shown that the ants may have been coming over on inter-island shipments to Maui for the past year.

“This is a serious matter,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa. “These ants can wreak havoc on a community. Their stings can cause a lot of pain and even blind your pets if you are not careful. We need to help the Department of Agriculture to identify possible infestation sites, so that they can contain the situation. We don’t want another invasive species on our island if we can help it.”

According to the DOA, the ants were traced back to hapu’u (Hawaiian tree fern) shipments at Lowe’s and Home Depot on Maui.

Department officials are asking that any Maui resident who purchased hapu’u from either store over the last 12 months to check their fern and the area where it is located for ants.

The best way to do this is to apply peanut butter to a chopstick and push the stick into the fern or the ground nearby. If you see ants on the chopstick, place the chopstick in a plastic bag and put the bag in your freezer. Call the DOA, and an inspector will be sent to your residence for further investigation and, if need be, treatment to rid the area of ants.

Please note that the LFA is no more than 1/16-of-an-inch in length and should not be confused with the larger tropical fire ant that has already established itself on Maui.

The number to call the Department of Agriculture on Maui is 872-3848, or contact the Maui Invasive Species Committee at 457-6472.