KAILUA-KONA — Little fire ants have been discovered in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, officials confirmed Thursday.
The insects were found in the popular Steam Vents area and Mauna Ulu parking lot. These are the first known populations of little fire ants (LFA) in the park.
Sampling is underway to determine if the ants are more widespread, according to a press release from the National Park Service. Park scientists are working with partners to respond quickly to the threat and evaluate control options while ensuring visitor safety and protecting native ecosystems.
“No bites have been reported, and no ant-related closures are in effect,” the release said.
According to the release, LFA are an extremely noxious invasive species, which can have devastating impacts to native ecosystems and human health. Since 2014, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has sought to prevent the introduction of LFA by monitoring equipment, construction material, and the vehicles that transport them, before they enter the park.
This year, officials have intercepted the small, biting ants a dozen times.
“We are concerned for the health and safety of our staff and visitors, and the fragile Hawaiian ecosystems of the park,” said David Benitez, park ecologist. “LFA really depend on humans to move them around. We need everyone to ensure their vehicles and gear are free of ants before coming into the park.”
For more information on LFA, how to control them and how to prevent spreading them, visit http://www.littlefireants.com/.