CRB spells trouble for Hawaii’s palms

At over 2.5" in length, the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle would seem hard to miss, yet it spends most of it's life in the crown of a palm tree. Photo courtesy of Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

At over 2.5″ in length, the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle would seem hard to miss, yet it spends most of it’s life in the crown of a palm tree. Photo courtesy of Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

At two and a half inches long and sporting large horns on the front of its head, the coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) is a remarkable-looking creature, but this lumbering giant of an insect is also a devastating pest of coconut and palm trees. Following its arrival on Palau in 1942, this critter from Southeast Asia quickly spread widely, wiping out 50 percent of the palms in the archipelago.

On December 23, 2013, during a routine survey of the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, surveyors discovered the coconut rhinoceros beetle in palms on the base, marking it the first reported case of the insect in Hawai‘i.

Teams mobilized to survey the surrounding area and control the infestation. Based on the size of the population, the beetle may have been present for up to two years.

Populations of the beetle in its home range are kept in check by natural controls (predators, disease, and competition) but globalized shipping has transported the beetle throughout the Pacific; it has become a major palm pest, affecting the Philippines, the Republic of Palau, Fiji, American and Western Samoa, and most recently Guam. It has spread elsewhere in the world, hitching rides in the holds of aircraft, through nursery stock, cargo, mulch and sawdust.

The beetles leave boring holes in the crown of coconut palms. Photo courtesy of HDOA

The beetles leave boring holes in the crown of coconut palms. Photo courtesy of HDOA

When coconut rhinoceros beetle was detected in Guam in 2007, Hawai‘i officials grew concerned that the pest would make its way here, given the regular exchange of goods between the islands; however, it’s not known how the beetle arrived in Hawai‘i, nor where it came from.

Notable as they are in appearance, these beetles spend most of their adult stage out of sight, high in the tops of coconut trees. These monstrous beetles bore into the crowns of healthy palms, biting through unopened leaves and then feed on the sap produced by the injured plant.

Mature coconut trees can typically withstand feeding damage, but young plants under three years old often die. Over time, the mature trees are not replaced.

The population of these giant beetles grows quickly. An adult female beetle lays 70 to 140

As CRB bore through unfurled leaves the leave signs of damage that become apparent as the leaves unfurl.  But  this is not a definitive indication--other damage can leave V-shaped cuts. Photo courtesy of HDOA

As CRB bore through unfurled leaves the leave signs of damage that become apparent as the leaves unfurl. But this is not a definitive indication–other damage can leave V-shaped cuts. Photo courtesy of HDOA

eggs in its lifetime, depositing  the eggs in mulch heaps or soft logs where they hatch into large whitish larvae. Even the larvae reach an impressive size: between 2 3/8 inches to just over 4 inches long. These brown-headed larvae with bluish-grey tail tints feel “squishy” and crawl on their sides. They lack any marking on the underside of their mouth.

Larvae mature through several stages over the next 2 to 3 months and finally form a cocoon where they become adult beetles. The adults hatch out at night, flying a few hundred feet to a nearby tree

While coconuts are the preferred host, the beetles can live on other palms, bananas, sugar cane, agave, even ironwood and taro.

Based on current surveys, the infestation on Oahu seems limited, with all known sites under active control. However, with any flying insect, certainty about the extent of an infestation can be challenging. Coconut rhinoceros beetles have not been detected on Maui. The key to preventing their establishment–and protecting coconuts, native and landscape palms in Hawai‘i–is detecting their presence early. You can help by looking for boring holes in the palm crown and the distinctive V-shaped cut on the leaves. Other types of pests can cause cuts and boring, but if you see these symptoms, an expert can help check it out.

To learn more, visit the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture CRB update page at http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/pi/main/crb/. Submit pictures of damaged coconuts or palms via the Project Noah website. Look for the mission entitled “Help Save Hawai‘i’s Coconut Trees”- projectnoah.org/missions/18256600. You can also use, the online reporting tool at reportapest.org, or call the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture’s Pest Hotline at 643-PEST (7378) toll-free from any island.

By Lissa Fox Strohecker. Originally published in the Maui News, April 13th, 2014 as part of the Kia‘i Moku Column from the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

What’s that new black caterpillar?

Secusio caterpillar eat fireweed and other invasive plants like Cape ivy, The Hawaii Department of Agriculture estimates it will take 8 caterpillars to kill one fireweed plant. Photo courtesy of HDOA.

Secusio caterpillar eat fireweed and other invasive plants like Cape ivy, The Hawaii Department of Agriculture estimates it will take 8 caterpillars to kill one fireweed plant. Photo courtesy of HDOA.

A new fuzzy black caterpillar is starting to show up across Maui—a promising omen for cattlemen and conservationists alike.  The caterpillar is the larva of the Secusio extensa moth, a biological control for firerweed released by the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) to control fireweed in March of 2013.

Diana Crow, a horticulturalist with ‘Ulupalakua Ranch, has been helping to raise and release Secusio moths on Maui.  “For a while I wasn’t seeing them at all. Then things changed when the rains came. I started seeing them around lights. That was the first indication they were reproducing in the wild.”

Impacts on fireweed aren’t likely to come immediately.  Established in the islands since at least the 1980s, fireweed now infests an estimated 850,000 acres statewide.  According to Rob Curtiss, an entomologist with HDOA, it takes an average of eight caterpillars to kill one fireweed plant. “What will probably happen is that the population [of Secusio] will continue to grow and reach epidemic proportions, then we will see them start to defoliate fireweed.”

Fireweed, Senecio madagascarensis, is a highly invasive weed, toxic to many animals that blankets pastures on Maui and Big Island. Photo courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr.

Fireweed, Senecio madagascarensis, is a highly invasive weed, toxic to many animals that blankets pastures on Maui and Big Island. Photo courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr.

Secusio may be getting some help from another unwelcome pasture pest; the caterpillars are capable of living off Cape ivy, a noxious weed related to fireweed, and containing the same toxic properties. “It’s inedible for livestock,” says Crow of the ivy. “We don’t want it. Plus it’s a threat to higher elevation native forest.”

The moth’s broad appetite isn’t a surprise to state agriculture officials. Before Secusio was released, entomologists reared the caterpillars in captivity to test what plants they would eat. Confined in cages with 88 different kinds of plants (71 of which were related to fireweed), they found it only ate 6 different species, including Cape ivy, and all were closely related to fireweed. Any plant it caused significant damage on is considered a weed in Hawai‘i.

Also known as German ivy, Cape ivy is extremely invasive. Introduced at the turn of the century to Kona, Cape ivy escaped cultivation and now threatens watersheds and native forests on the Big Island and Maui. It spreads quickly and once established can be extremely tenacious. Pat Bily of The Nature Conservancy has found several small populations in the Waikamoi preserve. Using herbicide to control a smothering vine would damage native vegetation so Bily removes plants by hand. Every leaf, stem, and root have to be removed or the plant resprouts; eradicating a handful of small populations is taking Bily years.

“Any feeding on Cape ivy, even if it was low, is a benefit,” explains Rob Curtiss. “Cape ivy certainly can be an alternate host. If populations of fireweed go down and there are populations of Cape ivy in the area, they will sustain a larger population of Secusio and we’ll get a better impact on fireweed.”

How do you know if you have them? The larval stage of Secusio is a fuzzy black caterpillar

The Secusio moth is about the size of an almond with mottling on the wings. The moth is nocturnal; turning off lights in the evening will encourage the moth to return to fireweed plants  to lay eggs. Photo courtesy of HDOA

The Secusio moth is about the size of an almond with mottling on the wings. The moth is nocturnal; turning off lights in the evening will encourage the moth to return to fireweed plants to lay eggs. Photo courtesy of HDOA

with an orange head and sometimes orange feet. It ranges in size from 1/8th inch when young to just over 1 inch before pupating into a moth. The moth is beige with brown mottling on the wings and about the size of an almond.

Are other plants on the menu for the Secusio moth? Seeing the caterpillar on other plants doesn’t mean the caterpillar is feeding on them. According to Curtiss, most feeding happens at night. The caterpillars often leave the host plants during the day to avoid potential predation.

People may also see them when the caterpillars are looking for a place to pupate, preferring a dark place like a garage or shed. “If you see them, leave them alone or take them outside,” advises Curtiss. The moths are nocturnal and attracted to light so leaving outside lights on all night may keep them close to houses rather than seeking out fireweed in adjacent pastures.

For more information about the Secusio moth, visit the HDOA website: http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/blog/news-releases/2013-news-releases/biocontrol-moths-released-on-maui-to-fight-invasive-fireweed/

By Lissa Fox Strohecker. Originally published in the Maui News, July 13th, 2014 as part of the Kia‘i Moku Column from the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

The little fire ant-bad news for food crops

Liitle fire ant colony inside a macadamia nut

Little fire ants have many queens in the colony, and by moving a queen the population spreads to new areas. If you live in an area infested with little fire ant, don’t bring the pest to your new home. Photo courtesy of Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

The little fire ant, Wasmannia auropunctata, is a pest with a deservedly nasty reputation. Alone, this wee ant is neither aggressive nor impressive, but with her sisters, living in a network of colonies stretching from tree-top to ground, she has a dramatic impact. Once established, little fire ants are more than a pest, they will put the kibosh on agriculture. Little fire ants have already shut down fruit orchards in the Hilo area and their establishment threatens agriculture throughout the state.

Little fire ants do not compete between colonies; rather, they cooperate, blanketing the ground and trees and outcompeting other ant species for food and resources. Other insects and animals may also be pushed out and end up abandoning highly-infested areas to the little fire ant.

As little fire ants find homes in bananas, citrus, rambutan, and coffee trees, farmers faced with new difficulties in harvesting their crops. Because the ants don’t hold on well to branches, scads of tree-dwelling ants rain down on workers become trapped in their clothing, and sting in self-defense.

fungus on coffee infested with little fire ants

Stinging ants raining down upon harvesters is enough of an obstacle for coffee infested with little fire ant, but additionally, yields are reduced because little fire ants protect aphids that support plant disease, like this fungus. Photo by Cas Vanderwoude

In the Galapagos, little fire ants have made harvesting coffee one of the most difficult ways to earn a living; coffee harvesters now command a higher wage than other agricultural workers to compensate them for the aggravation. Increased costs affect farm profitability; in several areas of the Galapagos, coffee plantations lay abandoned because of the little fire ant. In Kona, the famed coffee-growing area, and elsewhere in the state, most coffee is harvested by hand. The spread of LFA into coffee plantations will be a huge blow to an industry already struggling to address the coffee borer beetle, another invasive pest that threatens the coffee industry as it reduces yields.

Little fire ants threaten more than just coffee. In Brazil and Cameroon, little fire ants infest cacao farms. In Puerto Rico, Florida and New Caledonia, little fire ants have overrun citrus

Cacao and other tree crops are particularly susceptible to little fire ant infestations. Photo used by permission from  Cas Vanderwoude.

Cacao and other tree crops are particularly susceptible to little fire ant infestations. Photo used by permission from Cas Vanderwoude.

groves and in some areas practically blanket the ground.

The ants are causing havoc with other types of agriculture as well. Little fire ants cause blindness in animals and livestock, poultry, and pets in infested areas have a much higher incidence of blindness than do animals without LFA.

Controlling these ants is extremely difficult, especially for tree crops, as few pesticides are registered for use in trees and the bait must stick to branches long enough for the ants to find it. Existing control techniques rely on traditional pesticides; an effective organic method has yet to be developed.

As with any invasive species, preventing spread and establishment are the most cost-effective approaches.  Eradication is possible only if the population is small. Once established, these ants may be forever.  Little fire ants are widespread on the eastern side of Hawaii Island and beyond eradication in that area, but further spread throughout the state can be prevented. Help protect agriculture on Maui, as well as your own quality of life. Support efforts to prevent their movement between islands and quarantine and check any plants or soil you bring on to your property for little fire ants. Learn more at www.lfa-hawaii.org and www.littlefireants.com.

By Lissa Fox Strohecker. Originally published in the Maui News, May 13th, 2012 as part of the Kia‘i Moku Column from the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

Invasive plants=Less water

Open canopy rainforest in Puu Kukui

This rainforest, in Puu Kukui on West Maui, is an example of an open canopy rainforest typical of native rainforest in Hawaii. This forest acts like a ‘sponge,’ absorbing water from rain and gently releasing to recharge streams and aquifers. MISC file photo

When rain falls from the sky by the bucket-load it can be tempting to take water for granted, but the trip from raincloud to tap relies on effective, functioning natural systems. In Hawai‘i, alien plants disrupt the forest’s ability to capture water.

Water follows a cycle through the environment. Water over the ocean evaporates becoming atmospheric moister, as it travels over land it condenses into clouds, falling to Earth as rain or fog drip. Once on the ground, water has three paths: 1) it’s taken up by plants that use it to move nutrients through their cells, then return it to the atmosphere via transpiration; 2) it fills streams, lakes and rivers, eventually returning to the ocean–minus what was used for irrigation or lost through evaporation; or 3) it seeps through the soil into underground pools called aquifers. These aquifers supply most of the water we use to drink, bathe, and grow our food.

 

Forests have evolved differently to take advantage of prevailing water cycles in their regions. In South America and Africa the greatest diversity of plants is found up in the canopy.  In Hawai‘i most plant species are found in the lower third of the forest, closer to the forest floor.  Hawaiian understory plants need sunlight filtering through an open canopy. Koa and ‘ōh‘ia, the dominant Hawaiian canopy trees, grow in such a way that light reaches the shrubs and groundcover below.

Koa and ‘ōh‘ia  pull water from passing clouds as fog drip; the curved leaves of koa provide surface area to collect moisture from clouds and channel it down leaf tips to the forest floor. Spongy plants on ‘ōh‘ia branches and trunks absorb moisture from passing clouds. Alien species disrupt the system.

Strawberry guava, Psidium cattleanium, has invaded Hawaiian rainforests, growing so dense and so

Strawberry guava invaded forest in Makawao Forest Reserve

The invasive tree strawberry guava chokes out native plants. As it sheds bark, strawberry guava provides no habitat for the plants growing on the trunks of native species. Photo courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr.

fast that it chokes out other plants. A strawberry-guava-invaded forest captures water differently than our native forests. In Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park researchers found that a forest dominated by strawberry guava delivered less water to the forest floor than an intact native rainforest. Researchers noticed several differences between the two forest types: more rain ran down the stems of strawberry guava than ‘ōh‘ia but less water was pulled from the passing clouds. This could result from structural differences. ‘Ōh‘ia have aerial roots and furrowed bark carpeted with mosses and small plants called epiphytes. The epiphytes and aerial roots soak up water from passing clouds. Strawberry guava bark is smooth and regularly shed; few plants grow on its trunk and branches.

Other invasive species disrupt the water cycle by sheer size—leaf size. Miconia trees with three-foot long leaves sweep into the forest, stealing light from the understory and transforming it into darkened forest, the soil bare but for miconia seedlings. As another researcher on Hawai‘i Island discovered, the huge leaves are more than just light-hogs. They collect water as if they were huge tarps, and, as anyone who has stood near the edge of a tarp in a rainstorm knows, it’s only a matter of time until the water

The forest floor under a miconia invasion is bare, often with exposed roots. Not a good sign for water collection. MISC file photo

The forest floor under a miconia invasion is bare, often with exposed roots. Not a good sign for water collection. MISC file photo

dumps down. The drops running off of miconia turn out to be the largest drops ever measured. Larger drops hit the ground harder, and where miconia has smothered the understory, those drops fall on bare soil. Huge drops compact soil particles, preventing water from seeping down to aquifers, instead causing it to run off, carrying topsoil into streams and eventually the ocean where it can smother coral reefs.

These are only some of the ways invasive plants alter the forest’s ability to capture water. Water-hungry plants like Himalayan ginger pave the forest floor in tough roots. Huge trees like eucalyptus require more water to carry nutrients to their crowns than smaller trees. Unfortunately, the list goes on. Healthy forests mean reliable sources of water. Keeping invasive plants out of native forests is one way to help keep the water flowing from raincloud to tap

By Lissa Fox Strohecker. Originally published in the Maui News, March 11th, 2012 as part of the Kia‘i Moku Column from the Maui Invasive Species Committee

Flower grower who detected little fire ant in December 2013 receives award

Masako Cordray, 2014 Malama i ka Aina Award Winner

Masako Cordray, 2014 Malama i ka Aina Award Winner

 

Farmer and flower grower Masako Cordray was the 2014 recipient of the Malama i ka Aina Award, presented Saturday June 14th in  a ceremony at the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals’ Lawn and Garden Fair held at the Maui Mall.

 

The person nominating her said “Masako’s passion for land stewardship extends beyond the boundaries of the land she farms to the entire island.

 

On December 23, 2013, Cordray tested plant material she had recently purchased for little fire ants. After finding small orange ants on peanut-butter coated sticks she contacted MISC. Confirmation of the detection by the Hawaii Department of Agriculture set off a chain of events that resulted in the discovery of little fire ants at other garden shops and nurseries on Maui and Oahu and has sparked a statewide response “The 45 minutes she took to sample plant material has had immeasurable consequences. This is truly an example of the contributions one person can make” said MISC manager Teya Penniman.

Cordray has influenced invasive species prevention efforts for many years. She was part of grass roots efforts to incorporate an improved biosecurity facility when the Kahului airport was being expanded–actions that led to the completion of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s state of the art inspection facility completed in 2007. In addition to being a farmer, Cordray is an award-winning photographer and videographer and donated much of her time to helping educate the public about invasive species. She worked to create a film about miconia in 2006 and when little fire ants were discovered on Maui n 2009, she approached MISC about creating a film about this devastating species. A true artist, her attention to detail and uncompromising standards are evident in the quality of her work, both

(L-R) Allison Wright, MALP; Masako Cordray; Teya Penniman, MISC; Rob Parsons, County of Maui. MISC file photo

(L-R) Allison Wright, MALP; Masako Cordray; Teya Penniman, MISC; Rob Parsons, County of Maui. MISC file photo

in her photographs and floral arrangements.

 

The Malama i ka Aina Award is presented annually to recognize an individual or business working within the landscape or agricultural community to keep invasive species out of Maui County.  The award is sponsored by the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals (MALP), the County of Maui, and the Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC).
This year’s award featured a glass sculpture of an endemic Hawaiian damselfly, or pinao, by local artist Jupiter Nielsen. Award presenters were MALP Vice-President Allison Wright, Maui County Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons, and Penniman.

Press Release – 2014 MIKA awardee Masako Cordray_final

Moving? Leave the pests behind

Moving interisland, or even within the island, comes with the risk of bringing invasive species along   MISC file photo

Moving interisland, or even within the island, comes with the risk of bringing invasive species along MISC file photo

Ask anyone who has moved lately – it’s a daunting task. Every move, whether across town, across the state, or across the world involves choices: what to take and what to leave behind. Depending on where you are moving to and from, some of the “take it or toss it” decisions can have a major impact on the environment. Yes, you want to take your prized orchids, but what if they are carrying a pest you don’t want at your new home? Whether you are moving to the mainland or merely interisland, you should take steps not to bring trouble with you.

Hawai‘i is particularly susceptible to introductions of foreign species and each Hawaiian island is battling its own unique set of pests—plants, insects, or animals that are not found on the other islands. For example, fireweed is ubiquitous on the slopes of Haleakalā on Maui, but it’s on target for eradication on Moloka‘i and Kaua‘i. Red-vented bulbuls, a notorious agricultural pest common on O‘ahu, haven’t yet invaded Maui. How could one of these noisy birds find its way into your luggage? You’d be surprised.

Red-vented bulbuls are cavity nesters. While they most often nest in tree trunks, these opportunists have been known to squeeze into the ends of curtain rods or the tops of ceiling fans. These pestiferous birds are suspected of making it to the Marshall Islands as stowaways in a cargo container.

Less conspicuous than bulbuls are coqui frogs. These tiny hoppers can easily travel with potted plants. Gardening and yard

A notorious hitchiker, the coqui frog, hides in plants and cars. This frog goes through the tadpole stage inside the egg, meaning it's even easier to spread the frog. MISC file photo

A notorious hitchhiker, the coqui frog, hides in plants and cars. This frog goes through the tadpole stage inside the egg, meaning it’s even easier to spread the frog. MISC file photo

supplies like hoses, weed mats, and empty pots are perfect habitat for this noisy amphibian, so check twice before packing these things if coqui are already your neighborhood. If you do choose to bring plants or gardening gear, make sure they are clean and frog-free. Contact your local Invasive Species Committee for treatment information.

One of the tiniest yet most damaging interisland hitchhikers is the stinging little fire ant, now widespread in parts of the Big Island. An infested property can have millions of ants; one square foot can have over 1,800 worker ants with three to seven queens. It only takes one queen and fewer than a dozen workers to start a new colony. The ants can set up shop anywhere – a bed, macadamia nut shells, a computer or golf bag, so it’s easy to accidentally transfer a satellite colony to a new location. If you are moving from a little-fire-ant zone be sure you’re not packing a pest. Your family, pets, and new neighbors will appreciate it!

Shipping your car? Automobiles have been the source of new coqui populations. The small frogs find car bumpers and undercarriages the perfect place to amplify their calls. On a windy day, little fire ants rain down from trees into the beds of pickups and crevices of cars, coming along for the ride to find new habitat to invade. If you live in an infested area, check your car and consult the experts for how to rid these species from your belongings. That way you can move without compromising quiet nights and peaceful time outdoors.

 

Liitle fire ant colony inside a macadamia nut

Little fire ants have many queens in the colony, and by moving a queen the population spreads to new areas. If you live in an area infested with little fire ant, don’t bring the pest to your new home. Photo courtesy of Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

Are your pets moving with you? If you have a cat or dog, just check with the airline, but if your pet is on the “exotic” range of the spectrum—birds, chinchillas, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and even lizards—it should be cleared with the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture. The Jackson’s chameleon, often kept as a pet on Maui, is not established on Lānaāi, Moloka‘i, or Kaua‘i. It’s an invasive species that can harm endangered Hawaiian snails and other native invertebrates if it becomes established in wild areas.

When you are researching a big move, take a few minutes to investigate how to avoid spreading unwanted species to your new home. If you are moving interisland, the island-based Invasive Species Committees are good sources of information. Call the local office or find out online what they are working to control. Any plant material should be inspected by the Department of Agriculture before going interisland. Find the contact for your local Plant Quarantine Office here: http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/pi/plant-quarantine-contacts/. Bring the memories – but leave the pests behind.

 

By Lissa Fox Strohecker. Originally published in the Maui News, March 9th, 2014 as part of the Kia‘i Moku Column from the Maui Invasive Species Committee

Protecting the Northwest Hawaiian Islands from Invasive Species

Forest and Birds on Laysan

Laysan, a remote island in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, is a refuge for seabirds. Strict decontamination protocols protect these islands from non-native species. Photo courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr

Stretching 1,200 miles across the Pacific, past Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, lies a sting of tiny islands and obscure atolls ringed by coral reefs. Though the total land area occupies only six square miles, the Northwest Hawaiian Islands host over 14 million nesting seabirds and provide the only habitat for four endangered land birds. The extreme isolation of the islands, and hence the relative lack of human presence, mean the Northwest Hawaiian Islands serve as critical refuges for the  survival of coastal plants and animals now threatened or no longer present on the main Hawaiian Islands. But human presence has not been entirely lacking—military and private interests, and the plants and animals carried along, have left a lasting legacy on the islands.

Introduced species can have dramatic and devastating effects on the plants and animals that have evolved to live in such remote isolation, and the isolation can affect the way these species behave. Take the big-headed on Kure Atoll, which probably arrived as a stowaway with human cargo. On the main Hawaiian Islands and nearby islets, big-headed ants are a pest, but don’t seem to cause a measurable reduction in fledgling success of seabird chicks. Not so on Kure, where the density of these ants is five times greater than it ever was on Moku‘auia islet off O‘ahu before biologists eradicated the ant.  The ants are so numerous on Kure they attack everything they encounter, including seabird hatchlings.

On Laysan, the intentional release of rabbits in 1902 caused the extinction of numerous plants and animals and three species of land birds found nowhere else in the world. The rabbits have since been eradicated and the atoll is still home to a number of endemic species, including the Laysan duck, a bird once widespread in Hawai‘i.

Lessons learned from the intentional and accidental introduction of non-native species have shaped the management practices for travel today. To protect some of the last remaining examples of intact native coastal habitat in Hawaii, along with millions of

Laysan duck

The Laysan duck is a small dabbling duck that nearly went extinct due to invasive species. Today it is found on three of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Photo by Forest and Kim Starr

seabirds, land birds, and insects that live there, natural resource managers have taken steps to prevent hitchhiking plants and insects.

University of Hawai‘i early detection specialists Forest and Kim Starr know the drill. They have visited most of the islands in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, conducting surveys of native and non-native birds, plants and insects. They’ve gone through rigorous preparations to ensure they’re not bringing unwelcome guests with them. In September 2013, the Starrs traveled to Laysan, one of the islands with the greatest levels of protection.  “Everything, from boots and tents, down to the fabric sunglasses retainers has to be new,” Kim said, in accordance with procedures established by the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

They freeze everything they pack for 48 hours to kill any insects or larvae and help sterilize any overlooked seeds. The strict decontamination protocols help prevent the spread of

Laysan Finch

Once found on the main Hawaiian Islands, The Laysan Finch is only found on a handful of atolls in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. This ground-nesting finch is extremely vulnerable to introduced species like rats and ants. Photo courtesy of Forest and Kim Starr

biological material from the main Hawaiian Islands to these spectacular but vulnerable atolls. “Fewer people have been to Laysan than Everest,” explains Kim. Even food is restricted on the more isolated islands. Fresh fruit and vegetables are not permitted and food not in cans or jars must be frozen for 48 hours as well. All gear must be packed in plastic tubs and buckets, as cardboard or wood can harbor insect larvae.

To maintain some of the healthiest intact reefs in the world, divers must rinse all their gear in a mild bleach solution to remove fragments of invasive algae. Boats and ships must maintain clean hulls and exchange ballast water at sea. And all vessels must be free of rodents—one of the single greatest threats to ground nesting seabirds.

To protect the species found on the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, rigorous protocols help prevent “forward contamination.” Every island in Hawai‘i is unique; each has species found only on that island. You can protect the rare species of your island by taking simple measures to prevent spreading invasive species. Make sure potted plants and cut flowers are inspected by the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture before you carry them interisland and that soft gear, like tents, boots, even the cuffs of your pants are free of seeds, insects, and other hitchhikers. To learn more about the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, look online at www.papahanaumokuakea.gov.

By Lissa Fox Strohecker. Originally published in the Maui News, February 9th, 2014 as part of the Kia‘i Moku Column from the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

Nominations now being accepted for the Malama i ka Aina Award

Christina Chang of Lokelani Ohana, a farm in Waihee, Maui, accepts the Malama i ka Aina Award. Presenters from left to right are Teya Penniman of MISC, Cas Vanderwoude of the Hawaii Ant Lab. and Rob Parsons with the County of Maui. Chang was recognized for her efforts to stop the spread of the little fire ant on Maui.

Christina Chang of Lokelani Ohana, a farm in Waihee, Maui, accepts the Malama i ka Aina Award. Presenters from left to right are Teya Penniman of MISC, Cas Vanderwoude of the Hawaii Ant Lab. and Rob Parsons with the County of Maui. Chang was recognized for her efforts to stop the spread of the little fire ant on Maui.

Do you know a landscape professional making a significant effort to stop the spread of invasive species in Maui County?

Nominations are now being accepted to honor efforts invasive species prevention efforts within Maui County.  The Malama i ka Aina Award is presented annually to a landscaper, plant provider (retail and wholesale nurseries and garden shops), or commercial/agricultural property owner/manager to recognize their efforts to keep invasive species out of Maui County.The award is a cooperative effort of the Maui Association of Landscape Professionals, the Maui Invasive Species Committee, and the County of Maui.The award will be presented June 14th at the Maui Association of Landscape Professional’s Lawn & Garden Fair at the Maui Mall.

Nominations are due May 30th, 2014.  Nominations (form available through this link:2014 Malama i ka Aina award-on-line fillable nomination) can be submitted via email to miscpr@hawaii.edu, through regular mail, MISC, PO Box 983, Makawao HI 96768, or faxed in: 808.573.-6475

Please call the Maui Invasive Species Committee if you have any questions, 808.573.6472.

Christina Chang of Lokelani Ohana, a farm in Waihee, Maui, accepts the Malama i ka Aina Award. Presenters from left to right are Teya Penniman of MISC, Cas Vanderwoude of the Hawaii Ant Lab. and Rob Parsons with the County of Maui. Chang was recognized for her efforts to stop the spread of the little fire ant on Maui.

Aliens and Space Travel-Preventing Invasive Species from Reaching the Final Frontier

No hugs and kisses yet. The astronauts on Apollo 11 spent nearly 2 weeks in a quarantine facility when they returned from their moon landing to ensure they were not carrying any lunar microorganisms. Looking through the window (left to right) Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins. The wives are (left to right) Mrs. Pat Collins, Mrs. Jan Armstrong, and Mrs. Jean Aldrin. Photo Courtesy NASA.

No hugs and kisses yet. The astronauts on Apollo 11 spent nearly 2 weeks in a quarantine facility when they returned from their moon landing to ensure they were not carrying any lunar microorganisms. Looking through the window (left to right) Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin Jr., and Michael Collins. The wives are (left to right) Mrs. Pat Collins, Mrs. Jan Armstrong, and Mrs. Jean Aldrin. Photo Courtesy NASA.

When the Polynesians set out to find Hawai‘i, like all explorers, they did not know what they would find so they packed carefully, bringing food and other essentials to help them survive in the new land. Modern travelers do the same, whether heading to a new town or a new planet, yet, even with all the preparations, there are still surprises—sometimes in the way those essential items can affect the final destination.

This is the first in a series of three articles looking at efforts to protect the places we journey to from the things we journey with.

The farther you travel the more preparations you make. And for exploring the far reaches of our known universe, preparations take years. When the first astronauts walked on the moon, they were understandably more interested in what they would find than what they would leave behind. But the possibility of contaminating distant lunar or planetary bodies was on the mind of many scientists at the time. Contamination could compromise scientific experiments, invalidating any proof of life on anther planet. Or an organism from earth could become invasive—altering or destroying life on a distant planet.

With these concerns in mind, the U.S. National Academy of Scientists passed a resolution in 1958 urging scientists to “plan lunar and planetary studies with great care and deep concern so that initial operations do not compromise and make impossible forever after critical scientific experiments.”  Soon thereafter, NASA’s planetary protection office was created, with a focus on preventing both forward contamination–earth microbes into space– and back contamination—alien microbes back to earth.

To reduce the likelihood of forward contamination, spacecraft are built in cleanrooms designed to reduce the amount of dust and bacteria landing on a spacecraft. Workers must wear protective clothing so they do not leave behind hair or bacteria. And once the spacecraft is built, it is sterilized, either by baking in a giant oven at 325˚F for 30 hours or by treating it with vaporized hydrogen peroxide.

The level of planetary protection varies by the type of mission and destination. For example, an orbiter mission to Mars has a lower probability of contamination than a probe actually landing on the planet, so the cleaning requirements would be less rigorous – what’s known in space lingo as acceptable levels of biological burden. .

And as for what comes back to earth? There are protocols for that as well. When the astronauts from Apollo 11 splashed down south of Johnston Atoll in the middle of the Pacific in 1969, the recovery crew passed biological isolation garments into the hatch and resealed it. Donned in their new attire, they climbed aboard rafts and were sponged off with bleach before entering a quarantine facility aboard the rescue ship where they were isolated for 2 weeks and observed for infections from lunar pathogens. Subsequent missions Apollo 12 and 13 had similar protocols, but NASA has since classified the moon as devoid of life and relaxed decontamination for lunar missions.

NASA’s planetary protection office is tasked with protecting life in the universe from accidental movement of organisms between celestial bodies.  But the goal of planetary protection is not so different from the responsibilities facing the quarantine branch of the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture, doing its best to prevent both forward and back contamination on our little planet of Hawai‘i. The impacts of alien contamination coming into our state can be catastrophic—think fire ants or snakes. You can do your part on your next exploration to reduce the “biological burden,” even if it just means brushing your boots before a hike or checking plants you bring onto your property to ensure you aren’t introducing an “alien” contaminants.

By Lissa Fox Strohecker. Originally published in the Maui News, January 12th, 2014 as part of the Kia‘i Moku Column from the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

Invasion: Little Fire Ants in Hawai’i [video & transcription]

[Transcription] There is a new, invasive, stinging ant now established on the Big Island that threatens the environment, the economy, and the way of life on all the Hawaiian Islands.

How could this be? How could I not know about this? How could this be something that’s going to threaten me so badly and I’ve never heard of it?

When you look in the grand scheme of things, the nastiest of the invasive ants, with the greatest impact on Hawai’i is the little fire ant.

http://www.LFA-Hawaii.org/

A guy came in with his back completely covered with fire ant bites. I would guess two hundred, three hundred bites.

They’d crawl up our legs, they were on our couches, in our beds, in my dresser. Millions of ‘em. They were just everywhere.

I’ve been the manager of the Maui Invasive Species Committee for more than a decade. Working with an amazing team of people, staff, partners, working to control and eradicate the most harmful species across Maui Nui. I’ve had the opportunity to work on issues statewide. Traveling to Big Island, Kaua’i, and Tahiti, I’ve seen just how devastating the little fire ant can be and my concern has only grown. I’m now convinced that without an extraordinary effort, the little fire ant will be a catastrophe for Hawai’i.

The little fire ant is native to South America. Moved by human travel and commerce the ants have spread to many islands in the Pacific with devastating impacts. In 1999, little fire ants were discovered in Puna on the Big Island. Now they are widespread in Hāmākua, Hilo, and Puna, from Waipi’o to Kalapana. By 2011 they had spread to Kona and are now established in many sites. In 1999, they were found in Kalihiwai on Kaua’i, and in 2009 a small infestation was confirmed in Waihe’e, Maui.

Dr. Cas Vanderwoude in an expert on the little fire ant who has worked on ants throughout the Pacific. He is now based in Hilo as Hawai’i’s ant specialist.

I was working on a project in New Guinea and the locals there took me to a place that was infested with little fire ants. And the impacts were so extraordinary, the problems that this species caused were so huge, that it was sort of a bit of a turning point for me, I guess, and from that time onward I spent more and more of my time working researching ways to control this species and also looking at the kind of impacts this species has on both people, and on the environment, and on agriculture.

Now with little fire ants, we have colonies with lots and lots of queens. So if one queen dies, it’s not that important because there are other queens that will take her place. And those queens will stay with that parent colony, or walk away a few feet, or a few yards so that they remain connected to the parent colony all the time where really most scientists would consider that network to be a single colony and we would call that a super colony. Super colonies can span many aces, many thousands of acres in some cases where all the workers you would find all work together and cooperate with each other.

The Hawaiian Islands are in the early stages of infestation. Unless we stop their spread, little fire ants will form massive super colonies on each island changing Hawai’i forever.

Most ants like open, sunny, kind of drier places, but little fire ants are much more of a rainforest species. They like it shady, they like it wet, and they like to live in trees, which again, most ants will nest in the ground and then actually forage on trees but these will look for places to set up their nests in the trees themselves. For an arboreal species, for a species that like to live in trees, they’re not actually very good at hanging on. So even a small bump to vegetation will result in a rain of these little ants falling down onto the person or the animal that’s bumped the tree.

We got rained upon by all of these fire ants. We didn’t know what it was, but it was very, very painful it was. Like burning after that, just had to go take a shower and it still was burning after that.

The sting’s actually very small and a lot of people don’t notice that it’s an insect that stung them. What they end up with is, a few minutes after being stung, they end up with a rash.

It was like, what is this rash? Intensely itchy, painful rash. And the itch, if you can not scratch is manageable, manageable if you don’t scratch. But kids scratch and adults scratch. And you know it’s just very hard to not go, I have a fire ant bite right here, it’s very hard for me to not dig at it right now cause it’s itching me.

They were so itchy, they were so, so itchy and I mean even a day or two after I got bit they were still itchy. They hurt for a long time and they leave scars, too cause I would scratch them I guess.

The pattern of fire ant bites is that they disappear for a while and then they come back, they disappear for a while and then they come back. And over three or four days, on day three it can be just as itchy as it was on day one. The next level of concern is infection, that’s when people dig at it. And around here when you have an open sore, you’re going to get infected. You’re gonna get a staphylococcal infection and then chances are really good that it’s gonna be MERSA and so that’s what we are dealing with at the clinic.

Yeah, well I remember the first time Michaela got bit by a fire ant. It bit her on her chest and it swelled and it was red and it was really angry looking and I think she was maybe not even a month old, I think, and I just freaked out.

You know we’d sit and the couch and you’d look on the ground and you’d see ants, you know, right under you. So we couldn’t put her on the ground.

You’d have to dust your feet off before you sat on the couch or got into bed. Shake your towels out, your clothes out. They were just everywhere. It was everywhere.

Now, it’s just really a prevalent problem. They’re everywhere. I think everybody would have a story about an infestation in their homes, in their cars. They’re all over in the schools. Prior to the very recent treatment of this school, they were in my classroom. It’s challenging in an elementary school and an edible garden. I had to let all the parents know, we have this problem. If you kid comes home with a…you know, make sure that none of them have allergies. But everybody at one point or another got a bite or two. The custodians, I mean they a hard time maintaining the campus because all of the foliage around the campus was just loaded.

So, when they did the septic tank they brought in materials and they brought in cinder, so I’m thinking that they probably brought in the ants too. We never had that problem before. And then whatever we move around, the materials, you spread around for the campus, so we probably spread it more.

People are being stung in their homes, at work, and in parks. Public land and wild places may be abandoned to the ants. Hunting, hiking, and even beach trips will not be the same. The ants have already infested parks in the Hilo area.

We notice because it’s around out tower. And then for some of the people that lay out on the grass or sometimes they lay out on the far side, over there and they come telling us they’re getting bit. It falls off the trees, too, sometimes. It falls onto the beach patrons and they come up, something’s burning their neck and…[sigh]. It’s a really bright, bright day you see the little ant cause it’s really small. That thing actually went with us to our homes. That’s the, that’s the bad part. In our cars. They spread and end up in your bed and you get a bite in the night and not a good feeling. Yeah, it’s getting worse, it’s getting worse.

But for people that live a subsistence lifestyle, that live, you know, very firmly connected with the land, that produce most of their own food and the things that they need from their own land. And they have to suffer the crop losses or the economic losses or the production losses and there’s not a lot that they can do about it.

Everywhere, there’s not, not one spot without ants. If he didn’t treat, he’d have no life, no income. So, t he ant has been here for six years and he’s been able to contain it right on his property and trying to find a way to get rid of it.

Some of the people I talk to they feel really trapped because they don’t have the ability either financially or technically to actually deal with these issues, so it just adds an extra burden to their life.

They don’t even want to eat their bananas any more. The pineapple is full of ants. The ants get into the taro. What was it like before the ants came, living here? A lot of food. It was really nice. A lot of food. Paradise. It was paradise, but they don’t give up. How long has the land in this area been a part of her family? Generations. How often do you get stung? Everyday, everyday, everyday. When the wind is really strong, don’t come outside. A lot of people have abandoned their land already. Her cousin abandoned his land, up there they abandoned they’re land. They left. They don’t wasn’t to live here anymore. They gave up.

So Tahiti is the most populated island in French Polynesia. It is also the biggest one with the tallest peaks and mountains, so it has the richest biodiversity in French Polynesia. We’ve got about 850 native plants including 550 endemics. If some colonies are accidentally moved to those higher elevation areas it would be an ecological disaster.

Like Tahiti, Hawai’i is an evolutionary showcase with an exceptionally high number of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Little fire ants have the ability to transform and decimate native places and species. Forest birds and ground nesting sea birds are at risk along with sea turtle hatchlings. Even the smallest creatures, bugs, beetles, and spiders are vulnerable. In some infested areas of New Caledonia, little fire ants now dominate, making up more than 90% of insects with impacts cascading throughout entire ecosystems.

Hawai’i’s got quite a remarkable number of seabirds for the area. We have 23 breeding species of seabirds. Probably 20 would be directly threatened by ants in a large way. And all of them have this really long incubation period and long defenseless period. This about a month old chick of a wedgetailed shearwater and you can see it’s pretty helpless. There’s no tail feathers or wing feathers. A big, fat, ball of down. These birds are particularly susceptible to ants during the period of time when the egg is ready to hatch. It makes a hole in the egg shell which allows ants and things to actually enter it and to start directly attacking the chick inside of the egg. If ants were to get into some of the of the low wet forests like I’ve heard that they’ve done in other areas, they may be the thing that would push Newell Shearwaters and low elevation nesting Hawaiian Petrels or other endangered species over the edge.

The effect that it has on pets. The blinding and I’m sure it’s got to be very painful for them to be constantly being bitten or stung.

At start she was loving to go in the bush. Now she stays home. She is blind.

One time we did witness a bite on the eye. He came in right after and just ferociously rubbing his eye. You know, he was in a lot of pain for a while. You could tell. A few hours, sat and just licked and rubbed his eye.

The black one who is affected the most, if I pick him up, it never fails, he’s got fire ants in his fur. I’m bitten every time I pick him up.

Every single animal we have, we have three cats and two dogs and every single one of them has a, have clouded cornea. There’s no question that the fire ants and the clouded cornea come together I don’t know how you prove it.

Being here I know, I know that’s what ‘s doing it. Feeling the stings, I’m sure that it’s the fire ants.

We’re animal lovers, yeah. They’re very much a part of the family.

When I first heard that the little fire ant had arrived on Maui, my heart sank because I knew what a threat it posed and knew what the challenges are associated with trying to control a pest species that is so small, but that can be so powerfully damaging.

When we were making a banana delivery my glasses had dropped to the ground and when I picked them up and put them on I got bit on the eye. And it was so severe. I had to, like, run to the house and put ice on my eye. I had to lay down and the thought came that, I wonder if this is the fire ant. Initially when they came out to do the testing, so they put the peanut butter sticks everywhere, where we felt the ant, we’d experienced the ant. And it came back positive. It was evident that the destruction that the fire ant can bring to an island, which is what’s happening on the Big Island is something we did not want to happen here on Maui. Then whatever contribution we could make to help prevent the fire ant from coming to Maui we were gonna make.

So Maui was a good small scale test case. And Kaua’i presents a good opportunity for a large scale test case on eradication.

Right here we’re on Kalihiwai Beach. It’s a beautiful sandy scape and it abuts this cliff side area. The ant infestation is actually along that cliff line around the corner.

And as I got to the bottom of the cliff where i go holoholo and I could feel some bites all over my shoulders and my back and I was like, ho, what is this? And then I could see some ants was on top of me. When it’s wet, you’re always grabbing trees, grabbing the rope, so I guess that’s what kinda makes ‘em all come down too on you. And you’re getting bit going down the trail and it’s like, ahhh. That’s the trail we use all the time and that would be the trail I would take my son down there and having the ants fall on top of him and getting bit up, that’d be a big concern for me. I wouldn’t want that happening.

Well, some landscaper came and you know, landscaped the property down below here and two fire ants were in that particular plant and now we have a colony. It’s really bothered us and so I asked that question. How and why, where did this fire ant come from?

Historically, the little fire ant arrived to Kaua’i in 1999 on a shipment of palms. So the original infestation was only about five acres. It was believed to be eradicated, but what had actually happened was that it was brought to undetectable levels. And unfortunately now it’s about twelve to fifteen acres. Without Department of Ag’s containing it on that edge, it would have spread across that property and on to the next one. It would be devastating to have it infest this area, one of the nicest beaches on Kaua’i.

Farming is woven into Hawai’i’s history and is key to a sustainable future. Healthy are a critical component of farming. The pollination of crops, honey production, and Hawai’i’s Queen Bee industry face a new threat.

The bee industry is important wherever you are. All our hives have succumbed to LFA because LFA is a protein eater and the larval stage of the bees are very susceptible. If you have LFA and they’re close to your hive and they can get up and into that hive, they’ll probably take your hive down. I think it’s much more dangerous than the varroa mite.

Both local and export agriculture and our hopes for food security are at risk because of the little fire ant. In addition to stinging agricultural workers, little fire ants can weaken plants by farming insects like aphids and mealy bugs.

Those insects secrete a sugary substance that the ants use as a source of energy. So the ants have a huge source of energy that allows them expand and grow and farm yet more mealy bugs and scale insects which makes the plant sicker and sicker. That decline in health could result in quite substantial crop losses.

I grow macadamia nuts, coffee. I have lychee, mangosteen, orchids. Just a little bit of everything. A diversified crop farm.

I was going to grow four to eight acres of palms for hearts of palm, a couple acres bamboo nursery. So by the time we discovered them, we had millions and millions and millions. The palms are not harvestable because of the ants. I’m out of business. Totally. Little fire ant.

Now I have fire ants in my lychee crop. You’re in there with the panicles and you’re trying to grab your lychee and cut it and all that. You get them on you. I watched them as they were shaking all these ants off of them. And basically it was raining ants. Raining fire ants on them from the lychee.

The cost of trying to actually control fifteen acres when there are literally, you can ask Cas, but I’m sure hundreds of thousands in one tree. And finding people willing to work in the orchard is extremely difficult. I really think that this is the most devastating invasive that we have.

When I heard about the little fire ant I was really appalled and really scared. We’d be in very big trouble if it came into our coffee lands. We harvest off the tree and these branches are always leaning over us. Harvesting anything from a tree is going to be very, very, very difficult. And it will greatly impact agriculture. I mean, agriculture as we know it will not be here.

Wearing my hat as the chair of the board of agriculture, I see little fire ant as being a very significant threat. We need to address this quickly.

When you look at our mandate, what is it to do? It’s not just to protect agriculture, it’s not just to protect the environment, it is to protect the native biota, it’s to protect the public health. We can’t do it all. And that is very frustrating. It’s hard choices. It’s choosing between snakes or between, do we look at all the fish coming in because they may have pirahnas in them. Or do we look about what we’re not doing now which is the weedy plants. We’re so dependent on food, imported food, that we can’t let our stores or restaurants go empty. So we’re forced to get it out. Whether or not there are pests on them, we’re forced to get them out. We still get a sampling of interceptions. You know things are getting through and now what do we do from here.

So invasive species and the little fire ant in particular are very problematic because they will inhibit, I think, agricultural expansion.

So I think, it is impacting our growers. I think they’re finding that the ant is moving and where they didn’t have a problem a couple years ago, I think everyone is concerned this pest is moving from area to area and how do you deal with it. I think that’s the difficulty with this. It’s the size of the pest. This particular one is so small that you really have to look for it. Because we’re already considered a high risk pathway for the spreading of pests to the continental US, the presence of little fire ant in these nursery shipments or these flower shipments has heightened the concern that it will cause a California embargo.

California’s gotten very, very restrictive in terms of what we can export from Hawaii to their markets. So they’re, you know, they’re really kind of on the verge of closing us down.

If they find out that they cannot export their crop. Or, or sell it, at all. I think they’ll be very concerned. But because most people don’t have it, or haven’t been stung, bitten, they don’t know the effect. they don’t know that this is a very serious insect.

Because our islands are connected, you have to have real, meaningful, ongoing inspection, detection, reporting capabilities, because without that we will get it. It will become established and it will spread in the Pacific.

The ant is essentially gonna be, is here to stay on the Big Island and that’s just the reality and what we’re gonna be doing is mitigating effects, essentially forever. What we need is a good detection network so we can respond quickly and eradicate it before LFA gets a good foothold.

To do that we need more support for our inspectors. We need more inspectors. We need sniffer dogs, dog detectors and handlers. We need to have the industry, the shipping industry to be involved and supportive. We need to stop [the ants] from moving between islands. And that’s why it’s so important for people everywhere to become aware of what it looks like, what it does, how to report it, and to demand the tools and the resources to address it when it does become established. We need support from our legislators, our elected officials, county officials, federal officials, and we need everyone to be involved.

There’s on thing that that little ant really loves, and it’s peanut butter.

So you take a chopstick and thinly coat it with peanut butter on one end and lay it in the areas where you think you might have little fire ant. Be it a potted plant you’re bringing onto your property or a banana tree you’ve already planted or a palm you’ve already planted, they really do like moisture. It’s really not difficult, at all. Within forty five minutes, the sticks will have the little fire ant on them. They’re very small, but you should be able to see them. And of course if you do find them, you want to put that little stick in a plastic bag, freeze it to kill it, and then send it to the Department of Agriculture so that they can make a positive ID because there actually are quite a few stinging ants on the islands and they’re only able to actually positively ID them with a microscope.

We need for people to understand just how serious this problem is and to ask, demand, support action to stop it now while we still have a chance.

http://www.LFA-Hawaii.org/