Little Fire Ant

littlefireantLittle fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata)

Since the discovery of Wasmannia auropunctata on the Big Island in 1999, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture has enacted quarantine regulations to prevent the shipment of potted plants infested with little fire ant from the Big Island to other islands.

Description:

  • Ant that is orange-red to light brown in color, all workers are 1.5 mm in length (half the size of a sesame seed, or as long as a penny is thick, about 1/16 “)
  • Slow-moving, easily dislodged from leaves, plants
  • Native to Central and South America, accidentally introduced as hitchhikers on imported plants

Harm:

  • Delivers a painful sting when disturbed. Welts can last for weeks
  • Infests agricultural fields and farms, where they damage crops and sting workers
  • Promotes plant pests such as aphids, white flies and scale insects, which secrete plant sap that the ants eat. In turn, the ants protect these insects from natural predators and parasites.
  • Can also infest houses, beds, furniture and food
  • In the Galapagos, eats tortoise hatchlings and attacks the eyes of adult tortoises

In Hawaii:

  • Kauai: One infestation known in the Kalihiwai area, under active control by KISC and HDOA.
  • Oahu and Maui: LFA were detected on both Oahu and Maui in December 2013. The HDOA and its partners are working to find and control all infestations. Members of the public, especially those who have recently purchased nursery plants or materials, are urged to report unusual ants to 643-PEST. Visit the HDOA site for more information.
  • Molokai: Not known to be present at this time. Plant industry workers and property owners are asked to watch for and report this and other ants with aggressive, stinging behavior.
  • Big Island: infestations on the windward side of the Big Island, in/around nurseries and properties that purchased plants from infested nurseries. BIISC will be assisting HDOA in surveying for this pest particularly in West Hawaii.

For more information, see: