Fire ants have made their way into Waipio Valley.
About a year ago, Dr. Casper Vanderwoude with the Hawaii Ant Lab heard there were fire ants in the valley and has since been working with the community to tackle the pests.
“We’ve been working with people there for a year, but the community goes hot and cold on the issue,” he said.
Vanderwoude said the valley is a candidate for eradication since the pesky fire ants haven’t spread to all areas of the valley.
Morgan Toledo, member of the Waipio Taro Farmers Association, said he believes the ants were brought in from Puna.
Toledo said his neighbor has them, and although his farm has not been effected, he hopes the treatment will help quell the problem and stop the ants from spreading to other areas.
“We tend to treat it with the stuff, and try to treat them and hopefully they’ll die,” he said.
Vanderwoude said a few inspectors from the ant lab and a representative from the state department of agriculture went down to the valley earlier this month to assess the situation.
Neil Reimer, an administrator with the state Department of Agriculture who oversees invasive species issues, said what he’s heard is that the department is working with the land owners to help them with controlling the population.
Vanderwoude said they intend to work with the community in the future in order to handle the issue.
“The next step is to continue to limit the infested area and see what we can do with people that live there and try to eradicate it and try to control it,” he said.
When asked how bad it could get Vanderwoude said “it can get real bad.”
“That’s a big issue, especially for the people who live there,” he said.
He said when he was initially made aware about the ants he spent a Saturday training local residents on how to detect them and how to safely and effectively apply different treatments.
He said it’s possible that the fire ants got into the valley by produce or potted plants.
Vanderwoude said they’re also working to eradicate the fire ants in Naalehu, as well.
Visit www.littlefireants.com for more information about the Hawaii Ant Lab.