The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service is taking the little fire ant (LFA) infestation on Guam seriously and has recently awarded a $100,000 grant for treating LFA and an additional $50,000 for surveillance in the CNMI to Dr. Ross Miller, Western Pacific Tropical Research Center entomologist. He is teaming up with the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to implement control procedures for Wasmannia auropunctata, the scientific name for little fire ant (LFA).
“The Department of Agriculture has already begun LFA control efforts and this grant will allow our lab to offer technical expertise and assistance in pre and post treatment surveys as well as the actual control of the ants,” said Miller.
Miller’s team is conducting a detailed sampling for LFA in two areas that DOA has already been treating with pesticides including Tango™, an insect growth regulator.
“We initially selected six forested sites to treat using the University of Hawaii, Hilo Ant Lab techniques. Four of these sites have been successfully treated and LFA has been eradicated from these areas. Two sites are ongoing, and we are selecting another four sites to begin treating for LFA. Our project is not designed to treat LFA island wide, but to develop the technology adapted from the University of Hawaii for use on Guam. The good news is it works on Guam,” said Miller.
“We believe the impact of the pesticides to be rapid, but we need to sample the areas multiple times for 2 years without finding LFA to say they are truly gone. We expect to demonstrate that these ants can be controlled, which is why ongoing funding is crucial,” said Miller.
If residents have not yet been affected by LFA, they may soon be without these control efforts. Little fire ants have established colonies in many areas throughout the island. It is important that people do not transport soil, plants, or plant parts that may be infested with LFA.
The little fire ant is listed by the Global Invasive Species Database as one of the top 100 worst 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. Guam has already had one incident of a child needing medical treatment after being stung by LFA.
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. It takes everyone on the island to do his or her part in controlling an invasive insect like the little fire ant.
For more information on LFA, please visit www.littlefireants.com. To report sightings of LFA or other invasive species, please call 475-PEST (7378).