Video by David Corrigan
Ant scientist Cas Vanderwoude, the self described arch rival of the Little Fire Ant, gave a detailed presentation Wednesday before the Hawaii County Council Committee on Environmental Management on the dreaded invasives.
The Kona side of Hawaii was alarmed to hear the news that the “LFA” was discovered on their side of the island a few weeks ago. Until now, the stinging ants were only known to exist on the wet, windward side of the Big Island.
The discovery has nearly created a panic amongst the west side agricultural sector, especially amongst the cherished Kona coffee growing industry. The LFAs are known for climbing into tress, and legends from other infested regions describe abandoned farmlands where labor refuses to work, thanks to the pain of ant attacks during harvest.
On Feb 10, 2010, the Kona Farm Bureau organized the first public meeting since the discovery of LFA in Kailua-Kona. The meeting, held at Yano Hall in Captain Cook, was attended by council member Brenda Ford, who later requested that Cas give his LFA presentation at the council committee.
The ant scientist explains the effects the fire ants have on the quality of life for the people pestered in the area surrounding their nests. The ants also “ranch” mealy bugs and scale insects, in a mutual relationship that can spell added trouble for crops. The ants enjoy the sweat excrement of the scale insects, while the bugs get protection from the ants.
The ants have also been linked to blindness in domestic animals in the regions they infest; the ants likely get into the eyes of pets and sting until the cornea clouds over. Vanderwoude says there is no definitive data on the theory, but he believes the common site of blind dogs and cats is a sure sign of connection.
Vanderwoude says an LFA Taskforce for Kona would be a good idea to co-ordinate the response and seek funds. He also says the Hawaii Island Landscape Association will volunteer time and resources through the association.
Vanderwoude says the little fire ants were transported to Kona accidentally by a landscaping business, unaware that the ants had nested in the plants they were using.
Additional images used in this video were taken from Cas Vanderwounde’s power point presentation, available on his LFA website – along with other useful information – at www.wasmannia.com.