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New bait curtails ant infestation on Maui

By Leila Fujimori

LAST UPDATED: 1:58 a.m. HST, Oct 22, 2010

The state Department of Agriculture announced yesterday it has eradicated a rapidly spreading infestation of stinging ants on Maui, using a special experimental ant bait.

The department credits rapid response and development of innovative pest control for its success.

The bait was developed by scientist Cas Vanderwoude with the Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Before the new bait, ground treatments were the only method of controlling the sixteenth-inch-long, pale orange ants.

Dubbed the little fire ants, these ants are among the world's worst invasive species, originating in South America. Agriculture officials say the fire ants move quickly and can cause painful stings and large red welts on people and could blind pets.

They were found in October 2009, infesting half an acre of a Waihee farm.

The bait was used to treat trees and vegetation, where the stinging ants nest and can develop large colonies.

The area was treated monthly, and by February the ants were no longer detected at the site nor any other area on Maui.

Maui residents who suspect they have little fire ants are urged to call the state's toll-free Pest Hotline at 643-PEST (7378).

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