Workers Trained to Fight Maui’s Newest Pest, The Little Fire Ant

State and County workers on Maui gathered for a special training session to battle Maui’s newest pest, the invasive Little Fire Ant, which was discovered on a farm in Waihee earlier this month.



Mach Fukada (R) shows County employee Tamara Wells a live specimen of the Stinging Nettle Caterpillar, another pest species of particularly high concern because of its ability to deliver painful stings to people and its impact on the agricultural industry. Photo courtesy County of Maui.

More than 50 employees attended the meeting at the Waikapu Community Center on Wednesday.  The session was set up by Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares as a way to ensure the safety of field employees and increase the county’s ability to detect and report sightings as well as prevent widespread establishment of the species.


The ant, which is smaller than a grain of rice, has a painful bite that can result in intense itching for two or more weeks in humans, and can cause blindness or death in pets and livestock.


“We want to make sure that our employees are informed about Little Fire Ants and taking all the necessary precautions to protect themselves while working in areas that may be infested or may become infested with them,” Mayor Tavares said.


“At the same time,” Tavares said, “they can assist the Department of Agriculture by keeping a lookout for LFA and reporting suspected sightings. Early detection and rapid response will be the key to controlling their populations before they become too wide-spread and established.”


The session was led by Maui County’s sole entomologist with the Department of Agriculture, Mach Fukada, who was laid off effective mid-December due to State budget cuts.



County of Maui Environmental Coordinator Kuhea Paracuelles (standing, left) addresses County and State employees at the Little Fire Ant training led by entomologist Mach Fukada (standing, right). Photo Courtesy County of Maui.

Attendees were provided with informational brochures and preserved specimens of Little Fire Ants to assist with identification while working in the field. County employees from the Department of Environmental Management, Fire & Safety, Housing & Human Concerns, the Mayor’s Office, Parks and Recreation, Planning, Public Works, Risk Management and Water Supply attended, as well as employees from the State Department of Land & Natural Resources, Forestry & Wildlife and Land Divisions.


(Posted by Wendy Osher; Information provided by the County of Maui)