Little fire ants found in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

  • Little Fire Ants drawn out to peanut butter (Courtesy photo)

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

  1. Joan Sheldon November 15, 2018 9:50 am

    Have ticket taker at gate ask visitors if they might have ants in their vehicle. So then people will become more aware of the danger and be on the lookout for them and report them.. tell them where to report and if found, have people know where to take their vehicle to have it cleared of the ants. Have to have a plan in place to rid this problem… educate the public… talk more about it.

  2. Graystash November 15, 2018 9:57 am


  3. KonaLife November 15, 2018 10:41 am

    Here’s an easy vector for fire ants in Kona. Visitor goes to HVNP and parks in the affected parking lot. Fire ants stow in vehicle. Comes back to hotel, condo or home in Kona and voila, another colony begins to form.

    1. Pest Outwest November 15, 2018 5:27 pm

      To transport ants that become established would require moving an entire hive, or at least an egg-laying queen and some consorts. More likely they migrated to the park the same way ants spread naturally, a young queen flew in, shed her wings, and started laying eggs.

      1. KonaLife November 15, 2018 5:47 pm

        Yes, I, too, passed middle school biology. When they swarm, split hives or re-hive, it’s entirely possible for queen to find a vehicle and make the journey to Kona. We have LFA infestations in Kona, and the evidence points to them originally becoming established in Hilo and moving westward on our roads. Intra-island road transport is also how West Hawaii got coquis and, arguably the varrooa mite. It doesn’t take much.

        1. Pest Outwest November 16, 2018 3:30 am

          Could be, just seems more likely for a flying insect to . . . fly. If you surveyed the back country of Kau you might find a trail of them leading to Volcano.

  4. ypupule November 15, 2018 11:30 am

    The reality here in Hawaii is that we lack the social & political will not only to fight invasive species, but to protect our natural resources. Bottom line is that we just don’t care enough to do more; if we did, we would. That’s not a value judgement — it is what it is. So for better or worse, we’ll be responsible for the consequences of that attitude — no one else to blame but ourselves, no point in lamenting about it after-the-fact. It’s a bummer for the people who do truly care, but ultimately a losing battle when they’re in the minority.

  5. Buds4All November 15, 2018 5:28 pm

    Must have come from the lava!

  6. antifaHI November 15, 2018 8:38 pm

    Most likely dragged around with plant material and dirt. Park services have to seriously check their greenhouse/nursery sources. And not plant or clear anything till they know the scope of the contamination.

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