Here in Hawaii, we don’t have to worry about many of the pests that people on the mainland have to deal with. But one pest that has made the long journey here and has become a permanent resident on our islands is the tropical fire ant. Also known as the little fire ant, these ants are non-native species transported here from hitching a ride on ships from South America. Today, tropical fire ants can be found on every island of Hawaii.

Dangers of Fire Ants

The fire ants in Oahu are small, but their bites can pack a punch. Their stings are notoriously painful and the welts can last for weeks. Renowned entomologist and creator of the Schmidt Pain Index, Justin Schmidt, describes the sting of a tropical fire ant as “sharp, sudden, and mildly alarming, and like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.”

To most people, fire ant stings are extremely painful, but for those with certain allergies, fire ant stings can be life-threatening. Just one sting can induce symptoms of anaphylaxis in a matter of minutes. Fire ants are very aggressive and will attack with the full force of the colony if their mounds are disturbed. Multiple fire ant stings can be very dangerous to animals and humans of all ages. On average, ten people die per year of fire ant stings in the United States alone. If you notice fire ant mounds in your yard, take extra precautions, and look to eliminate the problem whether that be DIY solutions or calling professional technicians. 

Where Do Fire Ants Come From?

Originally, there were no ants in Hawaii. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But over the years, through human activity, 60 species of ants now call Hawaii home. Fire ants made their way to Hawaii by hiding in plants being shipped from Florida to Hawaii nurseries. The climate and beautiful weather suited them and they have now become fully ingrained in our ecosystem. 

Identifying Fire Ants

Once you get stung by a fire ant you’ll know it’s a fire ant. However, there are some less painful methods of identifying tropical fire ants. Tropical fire ants can be identified by:

  • Size – They are tiny, about 1.5 mm or half the size of a sesame seed.
  • Color – Their color is a uniform yellow-red. 
  • Habitat – Unlike other types of fire ants, the tropical fire ant does not build mounds. Instead, they nest in a variety of places that bring them into close human contact, such as irrigation lines, electrical boxes, trees, and under flower pots.

How to Control Fire Ants

Fire ant control consists of mitigating spread, identifying fire ants, and reporting them to the local authorities. Humans spread fire ants via materials such as shrubs, sod, wheat, and straw. The Hawaii Invasive Species Council urges homeowners to look for fire ants and be extra careful when transporting items that can harbor them. If you find ants in your yard and aren’t sure of what they are, you can submit them to Spot The Ant for analysis and up-to-date info on specific ants that have been reported across Oahu. 

Professional Ant Control Services

If you’re experiencing issues with fire ants or any other type of ant at home or work, the best way to handle it is to leave it to the professionals. At Sandwich Isle, we have years of experience controlling all manner of ants in Oahu. Check out our ant control program, or contact us today for more information. Don’t forget to check out our monthly blog for more helpful tips and tricks. 
For more information, call us at (808) 638-2406 or contact us online. Don’t forget to check out our monthly blog for more helpful tips and tricks.