Local Hawaiians and visitors on the island of Kauai are facing a big problem in the form of very small, invasive creatures.
Kauai officials are warning residents of a serious infestation of little fire ants on the island and to check their properties for the troublesome insect.
According to the San Francisco Gate, millions of ants have been discovered at Wailua River State Park on the eastern side of the island.
This massive colony is the largest the island has seen since this species of ant was discovered back in 1999, as reported by SFGate.
Fire ants are famous for their painful bite and their penchant for swarming victims if they feel threatened.
This particular sub-species is smaller than regular fire ants but still, packs a mean punch, according to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council.
This latest colony is estimated to cover between 13 and 35 acres, coming very close to the Wailua river, which could spell big problems according to experts.
Haylin Chock, a member of the Kauai Invasive Species Committee, explains why access to the river could be such a problem.
Little fire ants “can easily float down and create multiple colonies,” in the lush valley below, Chock says according to SFGate.
If the infestation reaches the water, Chock warns “that would infest the entire state park…if they are at that point, they can start climbing trees. It’s like a paradise for them. If that happens, how are we supposed to know where they are?”
While each of the Hawaiian islands has an ant infestation to an extent, the Big Island of Hawaii is described as having the worst.
Heather Forester, an ant expert describes how this infestation is affecting residents and tourists alike.
“They’re changing the way of life for our residents here in Hawaii,” Forester said. “You used to be able to go out hiking and go to the beach. They can rain down on people and sting them. The stings are different for different people.”
“In heavily infested areas, the ants can actually move into people’s homes. We have a lot of reports of them stinging people while they sleep in their beds,” as reported by SFGate.
The welts their stings leave can last weeks.
Officials are taking steps to counter the infestation by luring the ants with poisoned food so that they take it back to their colony.
Chock and others are hopeful that the problem was caught in time and that the ants can be pushed back.
“At the phase, we’re at right now, it’s too early to call,” Chock said. “Our team is really good at what they do. I’m going to say that we’re hopeful that it hasn’t spread that far. I’m confident that we can keep it contained.”
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