Hawaii’s Agriculture Is Under Attack From the Biggest Red Ant Invasion Yet



Genus Solenopsis is a name that you won’t usually find in reading materials. However, if you refer to them with their common name, then you will know that they are very much in the news today. Commonly, known as fire ants, these pests are wreaking havoc in Hawaii right now not because of their ability to create fire and destroy a lot of the island state’s crops, but because of their tendency to gnaw, chew, and bite anything in their way.

.They have been besieging Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. They come in hordes and you won’t believe what they’re able to muster considering that they are known as a minority species in the ant kingdom. They were initially observed in 1999 on the island of Hawaii. Their presence was so extensive that eradicating them appeared to be impossible.  A decade later and they made their way to a farm in Waihee, Maui. Undergoing considerable efforts, the ants were exterminated completely just nine months ago.

However, there was a big shipment of fire ants that came from Hawaii to Maui that was discovered by the inspectors just this summer. And in another discouraging situation: just three months ago, the largest red ant pestilence since in Hawaii was unearthed on a 20 acre forest in the vicinity of Nahiku on Maui’s eastern coast.

“That was years in the making,” said Randy Bartlett, interagency coordinator with the Hawaii Invasive Species Council.

There is an ongoing red ant eradication for an infestation of a 13-acre part of Kalihiwai, Kauai. Agriculture officials declared that the red ants are now under control.

Red ant bites are painful and result in large red swellings. They also have the ability to build very extensive colonies anywhere in ground, trees, plants, posts, and abandoned structures. They can completely take over your homes, farms and other properties.

These ants are not even bigger than one sixteenth of an inch and they move slowly, but their army, according to studies made by the University of Hawaii, can waste up to $170 million worth of agricultural products in Oahu

Red ants are indigenous to South America but were imported to the South Pacific more than 4 decades ago as passengers on plants and fruits.

“The (Agriculture) Department doesn’t have enough personnel, and the ant could turn up anywhere,” Bartlett said. “If everyone would just look in their own backyard, it could go a long way to getting on top of this. What we’ve seen so far could be just the tip of the iceberg.”




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