HONOLULU (KHON2) – Little fire ants have been found in an area adjacent to the Waihee River in northern Maui.
The infestation was found after a Waihee Valley resident reported being stung on her neck and collar while working around fruit trees in the area.
“One of the indications [of little fire ants] is being stung on the neck or the upper body by ants falling from vegetation above,” said Lissa Strohecker with the Maui Invasive Species Committee.
Experts went out and found the little fire ants across three properties, covering about four to five acres. While they say that isn’t as large an infestation compared to others, there could be more little fire ants out there.
“It’s concerning because it’s along the Waihee Valley river. We know that fire ants can move along the river,” said Strohecker.
Strohecker said they have already surveyed the area just below the river and haven’t found any signs of the little fire ants. They don’t believe the little fire ants could have moved downstream, but they aren’t ruling it out. They are asking residents in the area to be on the lookout and let the Maui Invasive Species Committee know if they think they have little fire ants on their property.
“By engaging that community so that people along the river, and anyone that has a tarot loi for example who’s using water from the river, if they can test their property for little fire ants and help us out, then we can detect any other potential infestations,” said Strohecker.
She said the main way they find little fire ant infestations is from reports.
“Without a resident being concerned, aware, reporting on the little fire ant population up there, this population could have gotten huge without our ability to detect it.”Lissa Strohecker, Maui Invasive Species Committee
In this instance, they estimate this infestation was there for at least five years.
“That’s why asking people to test their property regularly every year is really essential to finding these while it’s still a manageable size,” said Strohecker.
To find out more information on how to test if your property has little fire ants, you can visit stoptheant.org.
A community meeting will be held on October 9 at 6 p.m. at Waihee Elementary School. Experts will be there to share more information on the threat of little fire ants, the current status of Maui’s infestations and plans for treatment in the area.