Little fire ants (LFA) may be tiny, but they pack a powerful sting. Native to South America, these speck-sized invaders have hitchhiked across the Pacific, hidden in imported goods, establishing new populations in islands like Hawaiʻi. Much smaller than the average ant, LFA are about as long as a penny is thick.
LFA are considered one of the World’s 100 Worst Invasive Species (IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group), because of their ability to reach very high numbers, to the point where people and animals can’t avoid stings. Without the competition and predators that could keep their numbers in check, they are invading houses, yards, agricultural fields, and forests. They’re also terrible at hanging on, so they easily fall off plants and trees when bumped by people or animals. Unsuspecting victims of the “ant rain” are left with painful stings. Pets living in areas with dense populations of these ants develop clouded eye corneas from repeated stings to their eyes. This is painful for pets and the blindness is permanent.
Little fire ants may have reached our shores, but we can’t treat it like “just another ant.” It’s up to each of us to Spot The Ant and Stop the Ant.
On Oahu, LFA have been detected in two locations in 2014…Mililani and Waimanalo. Both sites have been successfully treated and will continue to be monitored for at least three years after the last LFA detection to ensure eradication.
That said…we don’t know where else they could be. They continue to be intercepted at port inspections, but not every shipment can be looked at and ants are pretty small! Residents and businesses can help us look for these ants. If we can find them, we can get rid of them and stop the spread!
Simply collect your ants, freeze them, then mail them to us for identification. There are 57 species of ants in Hawaii. We need your ants in hand to identify the species under a microscope. Collecting your ants is easy to do with things you have in your home.
What you’ll need:
- disposable chopsticks, stirrers, or popsicle sticks (about 10 sticks)
- cheap peanut butter (if allergic to pb, use mayonnaise)
- zip top bag
- envelope and one stamp
Collecting & Submitting Ants
- Smear a thin coat of peanut butter or mayo on one end of a disposable chopstick or popsicle stick.
- Place sticks in shady areas in, around, and on plants, including potted plants, around pet feeding areas, and trash cans. For a thorough survey, place at least three sticks per plant, and/or one stick every two feet. Leave the sticks out for 45 minutes to 1 hour to attract ants.
- Carefully pick up the sticks (so the ants don’t fall off!), and seal them in a plastic bag. Write your name, contact number, and the date on the bag and freeze for 24 hours to kill the ants.
- Mail the zip top bag of dead ants to the OISC.
- 743 Ulukahiki St., Kailua, HI 96734
For more information about LFA and their distribution throughout the islands, visit: www.stoptheant.org