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At The Butterfly Grove, we don't normally like to be downers, but we thought since we were all about bugs, we needed to bring to light a current issue that we are facing here on our Hawaiian Islands. We love bugs, but not when they are popping up where they don't belong. Across Hawaii we are experiencing the spread of the Little Fire Ants. The Butterfly Grove recently took part in a massive effort to test various of our island for the little fire ants.
We've had the tropical fire ants here since about the 1940's, but recently we've had a new invasive species knows as The Little Fire Ant. These guys can be red, yellow or tan, about half the size of the tropical fire ant and have massive colonies. There have been a few cases where the colonies went undetected until there were sudden population explosions and people have had to evacuate their houses. Their stings can cause burning rash like bites all over your body.
So why is it bad?
- The spread of these fire ants is a threat to the tourist industry here in Hawaii, which is really our main source of commerce.
- In Hawaii we have a lot of farming. The spread of these ants affect the farmers. It also affects many of the organic farms here on the islands. If the organic farms are invaded by the fire ants, the only recourse is to spray, which will cause the organic farms to lose their organic status.
- Since they are an invasive species, this means that they can and will cause a competition for resources for our native insects, such as the Kamehameha Butterfly.
- In Florida, the little fire ants have stung the nesting turtles, which could be a huge problem for our turtles here in Hawaii, which are already battling tumors that have popped up in recent history.
- The native sea birds here in Hawaii nest on the ground, making them targets of the little fire ants. Our native birds are already endangered, and these ants could further devastate our native bird population.
If you live on Hawaii, what can you do?
You can personally test your home and nearby areas. It's as simple as putting out peanut butter laden popsicle sticks for about 45 minutes. They like bushes and damp areas. Send in suspicious ants remember, they are tiny - and they can be red, yellow or tan) still on their sticks in a ziplock bag.
Samples can be sent to the following :
- Kauai: 4398A Pua Loke St., Lihue, HI 96766
- Oahu: 1428 S. King St., Honolulu, HI 96814
- Maui: 635 Mua St., Kahului, HI 96732
- Molokai: C/O The Nature Conservancy, 23 Pueo Pl., Kaunakakai, HI 96748
- Hawaii Island: Hawaii Ant Lab / HDOA, 16 E. Lanikaula St. Hilo, HI 96720
For years the monarch butterfly population has been declining due to habitat destruction. The monarch butterfly feeds mostly on milkweed (here in Hawaii we have a variety called Crown of Thorn), which are getting destroyed. The butterfly population has fallen sharply by 960 million in ten years. The National Fish and Wildlife has pledged 1.2 million into restoring the monarch butterfly population. Money will go into education and habitat restoration.