The little fire ant (LFA), Wasmannia auropunctata, may have only a little more time to spend on Guam as the Department of Agriculture and the University of Guam are teaming up to begin eradication efforts around the island.
The Department of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources received a State Wildlife Grant to begin a pilot eradication project for LFA on Guam. Wildlife Biologist Julie Duay is heading to Hilo, Hawaii to receive training in successful techniques used in the Hawaiian Islands for eradicating LFA. When Duay returns she will be working with UOG’s Cooperative Extension Service, Agriculture and Natural Resources agent Roland Quituqua to put together a database and delimiting survey of up to four locations on Guam where the little fire ant is present and attempt to eradicate the colonies.
LFA have established in isolated areas throughout the island, so it is very important that people do not transport soil, plants, or plant parts that may be infested with LFA. “These ants do not make mounds like other ants. They live on the ground and in trees and they especially like living in heliconia plants and banana trees,” says Duay.
Little fire ant is on the list of the top 100 nastiest invasive species worldwide and is considered the greatest invasive ant threat to the Pacific region. They deliver a very painful sting causing an extremely itchy rash. Since they live in trees, LFA drop on people when the wind is strong, or when people brush against plants while walking through the jungle, or while harvesting fruit. In some places in Tahiti and Hawaii, people can no longer harvest their crops and have given up farming in areas infested with LFA.
Since the little fire ant is a hitchhiker ant, people moving green waste, soil, and plants are increasing the risk of LFA finding a permanent home on Guam. One way to reduce the chance of spreading LFA around the island is to plant tissue culture banana plants from the Department of Agriculture LFA-free nursery. This eliminates the risk of cutting a sucker from a banana plant infested with LFA and sharing it with your neighbor along with some little fire ants. Several varieties of banana plants are available at the nursery on Dairy Road in Mangilao. For more information about tissue culture plants contact Ricardo Lizama at 300-7974.
Guam Department of Agriculture and University of Guam personnel continue their collaborative efforts to protect the island’s natural environment from the devastating effects of invasive species. For more information on LFA, please visit www.littlefireants.com. To report sightings of LFA or other invasive species, please call 475-PEST (7378).