Little fire ants have been found in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
In a news release, park officials said today that populations of little fire ants have been detected at the popular Steam Vents area and the Mauna Ulu parking lot. These are the first known populations of little fire ants in the park.
Intensive sampling is underway to determine if the ants are more widespread.
Park scientists are working with partners to respond quickly to the threat and evaluate control options while ensuring visitor safety and protecting native ecosystems. No bites have been reported, and no ant-related closures are in effect.
Little fire ants are an extremely noxious invasive species, which can have devastating impacts to native ecosystems and human health.
Since 2014, the national park has sought to prevent the introduction of little fire ants by monitoring equipment, construction material, and the vehicles that transport them, before they enter the park. This year, officials have intercepted the small, biting ants a dozen times.
“We are concerned for the health and safety of our staff and visitors, and the fragile Hawaiian ecosystems of the park,” said David Benitez, park ecologist. “(Little fire ants) really depend on humans to move them around. We need everyone to ensure their vehicles and gear are free of ants before coming into the park.”