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Maka`ala Molokai, the Little Fire Ant May Be Coming

Community Contributed

By Lori Buchanan, MoMISC

The stinging little fire ant has been detected on hapuu ferns being sold at several garden stores and big box retail outlets on Maui and Oahu, according to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (DOA) on Dec. 31. The ferns originated from Hawaii Island.

The Molokai/Maui Invasive Species Committee (MoMISC) continues to strongly urge Molokai residents not to import plants from Hawaii Island due to the current little fire ant (LFA)and coqui frog infestations there. Also to be aware that coqui frogs and LFA will hitchhike on other goods such as household items, vehicles and on you!

Originally from South America, LFA is considered among one of the world’s worst invasive species. LFA are tiny ants, measuring 1/16th inch long and are pale orange in color. LFA move slowly, unlike the Tropical Fire Ant, which is established in Hawaii and move quickly and are larger with a larger head in proportion to its body. LFA can produce painful stings and large red welts and may cause blindness in pets and livestock. They can build up very large colonies on the ground, in trees and other vegetation and completely overrun a property. They will also freely move into homes.

DOA is advising those who recently purchased hapuu logs or planters to contain the logs by placing them in a plastic or garbage bag and seal it securely. You should contact the nearest HDOA office as soon as possible.

The most cost effective means of controlling invasive species is prevention. Preventing invasive pests from establishing themselves on Molokai is key. Once an invasive species becomes established it may become too cost prohibitive to control and everyone loses.

To report an invasive species on Molokai, call the MoMISC office at 553-5236 ext. 6585 and leave a message. You can also call the Oahu pest hotline toll free at 1-800-468-4644.

In recent years, MoMISC has intercepted coqui frogs on Molokai arriving on shipments of plants, roofing material and a vehicle which originated from Hawaii Island. Molokai has no agricultural inspector to inspect arriving shipments of goods to Molokai. The hope has always been that goods arriving on Molokai are “clean” and free of pest species and that shippers of high risk goods have done all they can to eliminate potential threats before shipping. While many suppliers of goods do their best to ensure their goods are pest free when they leave their facility, goods are held at “open” ports that could unknowingly harbor pest that could re-infest (hitchhike) on goods arriving on Molokai.

Please help MoMISC to keep invasive pests from establishing on Molokai.


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