NAHIKU, Maui >> Hawaii scientists have taken to the air to launch an attack against an invasive ant species in East Maui.
The Maui Invasive Species Committee and Hilo- based Hawaii Ant Lab sprayed low-toxicity gel bait from helicopters Tuesday to curb the stinging pests in the Nahiku forest, the Maui News reported. Fifteen helicopters were part of the joint-island effort to treat an infestation of the little fire ants, also known as electric ants.
“It’s the first time we know of that anyone is using gel bait from a helicopter anywhere in the world,” said Lissa Fox Strohecker, Maui species committee spokeswoman.
The spray combines food-grade ingredients and a growth regulator that acts like birth control, crews from Maui and Hawaii island said.
Despite years of treatment administered on foot, thick vegetation and dangerous terrain make the South American native insects difficult to combat, scientists said.
The insects are smaller than the average friendly ant and have a burning sting that can permanently blind cats and dogs and can cause irritation for humans, experts said. The insects can also create huge colonies of about 80 million ants every acre and fall from trees creating what scientists call “ant rain.”