Ever since 1999 when fire ants (Solenopsis spp.) were first identified on the big island of Hawaii, the battle to protect farm and natural lands from them has been raging. This invasive pest, native to South America, has since been found on Oahu and Kauai. In certain areas officials had the infestation under control…or so they thought.
Following 10 years of meticulous monitoring and implementation of severe controls, it seemed as if fire ants had been eradicated on Maui. However, currently conservation officials and entomologists are fighting to stem the oncoming invasion once more. Recently a cargo ship was stopped for inspection and found to be crawling with the invasive pests, additionally over 20 acres on Maui’s northern coastline is overcome with an infestation of fire ants.
Fire ants have a painful and irritating sting when incurred by humans, but it is their tendency to tear apart everything in their path that is of major concern for natural and agricultural resources in Hawaii. University of Hawaii research indicates that fire ant infestation will destroy upwards of $170 million worth of agricultural products. The recent discoveries of fire ant populations have prompted officials to begin treating park and forest land for the pests once again.
Now that infestations have been reported on all four of the major Hawaiian islands officials from the Hawaii Board of Agriculture are encouraging homeowners, landowners, farmers and growers to vigilantly monitor their property and plants for fire ants. Novel invasions must be reported immediately in order to begin treatment before a localized infestation can spread.