The Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) was granted a quarantine order by Maui Circuit Judge Peter T. Cahill that prohibits the movement of plant material and personal property in outdoor areas on a Maui property infested with little fire ants (LFA). Earlier this month, HDOA obtained a warrant to access the property at 82 Loomis St. in Haiku after the tenant continually refused to allow LFA eradication crews to survey and treat the area.
LFA were detected in the Haiku neighborhood in early 2015 and surrounding properties have been under treatment to eradicate the invasive stinging ants. Although the landowner has been cooperative, the tenant on the property has refused to cooperate for many months which forced the state to take legal action.
Under the earlier warrant, department pest control personnel were able to survey the 1.75-acre property on Sept. 12th and found LFA infestations in potted plants, kalo patches and other vegetation. On Sept. 20th and 21st, HDOA crews returned to the property to treat the infested areas. On all three occasions, HDOA crews were accompanied by members of the Maui Police Department and the state Attorney General’s office due to persistent harassment and threats by the tenant.
Treatment of the property is expected to continue for about a year. Monitoring will continue after eradication is declared for three additional years. Judge Cahill’s order regarding quarantine of the property will remain in effect until further order by the court.
HDOA has not taken this type of legal action since 2000 during the eradication efforts for banana bunchy top virus on Hawaii Island. Usually, the department tries to work cooperatively with residents, farms and nurseries to eradicate invasive pests. Eradication efforts have been extremely successful on Oahu, in Mililani and Waimanalo, mainly due to the cooperation of residents and residential associations.
LFA was first detected on Maui in 2009 on an organic farm in Waihee. The infestation was under control in one year following the treatment protocol developed by Dr. Casper Vanderwoude of the Hawaii Ant Lab and the ongoing efforts of the Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC). In late 2013, LFA was found on Maui and traced to infested hapu`u logs imported from Hawaii Island, where LFA is widely established. Eradication efforts continue at another infestation site in East Maui.
When LFA was first detected on Hawaii Island in 1999, there was no treatment protocol for eradication or control. The Hawaii Ant Lab was subsequently established and has developed proven methods that can eradicate infestations if detected early.
Originally from South America, LFA is considered among the world’s worst invasive species. LFA are tiny ants, measuring 1/16th of an inch long, are pale orange in color and move slowly, unlike the tropical fire ant which moves quickly and are much larger with a larger head in proportion to its body. Tropical fire ants have been well established in Hawaii since before the 1870’s. LFA can produce painful stings and large red welts and may cause blindness in pets. They can build up very large colonies on the ground, in trees and other vegetation, buildings and homes and may completely overrun a property to the point of abandonment.
For more information on LFA in Hawaii, go to the HDOA website: http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/pi/main/lfainfo/