Little Fire Ant: Kauai’s Biggest Summer Pest Threat

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LFAImagine one of Kauai’s luxury resorts or retail plazas roping off the property with yellow tape because of tiny unwanted guests that have invaded the property.

“Do not enter: Little fire ant infestation.”

The possibility of this, alone, is a nightmare—and it’s a fight that our neighboring commercial property owners on the Big Island have been waging for some time. The fact is, contained little fire ant infestations have been identified on Kauai, and we want to keep those incidents contained, or eliminate the pest from the Garden Isle completely.

Little fire ants aren't just a nuisance on a commercial property — their continued presence and potential infestation could spell disaster for Kauai's lifestyle: tourism, agriculture and the economy. The best insurance against red ants is to prevent them entirely.

No Ka Oi is doing what we can to help: Our nursery is certified little fire ant (LFA) free. Our commercial clients can rest assured that the plants we install have not been infested with this pest. It’s important that everyone on Kauai be aware of the dangers that little fire ant can pose if it makes a home here — we’re working to prevent its establishment through education, integrated pest management (IPM) and keeping a “clean” nursery.

Here’s what to know about little fire ant.

Pest ID: Little Fire Ant Vs. Tropical Fire Ant

These sluggish, slow-moving tiny ants, pale orange in color, are 1/16 inch long. Little fire ants are not quick to sting but will do so if trapped beneath clothing.

A lookalike is the tropical fire ant, a small, stinging red ant that measures 1/8 to ¼ inches long. Compared with little fire ant, this pest is quite a bit larger. Some of these workers have disproportionately large heads, and they are restricted to dry coastal areas and nests in the soil.

It’s important to differentiate between these two types of ant.

On Location: Finding Little Fire Ant on Kauai

Little fire ants do not build mounded dirt nests. Instead, they burrow into nooks and crannies: container plants, flowerbeds, tufts of grass and leaf debris. They also creep into buildings, and their sting causes large welts that persists for days. Domestic animals stung in the eyes by little fire ants can go blind. Little red ant can also sting livestock and wildlife.

No Ka Oi’s commercial landscape professionals are well-versed in Kauai’s pests and insects that pose a threat to our island, including little fire ant.  

A simple peanut butter test will attract little red ants so they can be collected for further testing: Smear a very thin coat of peanut butter on the end of a chopstick, and stake it into the suspected infestation area. Leave it there for one hour, then inspect for ants. Are they orange or red? Are they no larger than 1/16 inch? If you can answer yes to both, your property requires further inspection. Place the chopstick in a plastic bag and freeze overnight. CTAHR will identify the ants collected.

In the meantime, avoid treating for ants using baits because this can make mapping ants more difficult and interfere with the professional pest management process.  

Damage Control: Managing and Preventing Little Red Ant

We are fortunate on Kauai that only a few restricted sites have suffered from little fire ant infestation. Invasive pests like little fire ant underscore why property inspection for pests is so critical for maintaining the careful balance of our ecosystem.

Enlisting a trusted commercial landscape professional to perform regular site visits, and taking an integrated pest management (IPM) approach of constant monitoring, prevention and control are crucial. Talk to your Kauai landscape professional about their efforts to identify and prevent little fire ant spread.

LFA-Free: Trust NKO’s Certified Nursery

You can trust that the plants sourced from No Ka Oi’s nursery are free of little fire ant because our facilities are carefully inspected and certified. Our sustainable pest management practices include IPM and constant monitoring for invasive species like little fire ant.

Concerned about an infestation? Want to launch a more aggressive prevention plan? Let’s talk more. Give us a call any time at 808-335-5887, or fill out our simple contact form and we’ll get in touch with you!

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