The Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation has received a $50,000 grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority to eradicate little fire ants, and it’s wasting no time putting the money to use. The department only announced the grant yesterday, but today it announced that Hilo’s Kawamoto Swim Stadium would be closed on February 5 to treat it for the tiny stinging pests. Future ant-eradication targets for the program include Richardson Ocean Park, Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo an Gardens and Liliu`okalani Gardens.
Little fire ants are considered to be one of the worst invasive species worldwide. In recent years, they have spread to tropical environments around the world, from Florida to Israel to Papua New Guinea. The ants are about as long as a penny is thick, but their sting can cause a burning rash as large as a human hand. Unlike many ant species, little fire ant queens do not fly; they spread mainly by “hitch-hiking” in potted plants and in transported soil and soil amendments. For more information about them, see the Hawaii Ant Lab’s Web site.