KAILUA-KONA — A new West Hawaii extension agent was hired to expand the fight against the invasive little fire ant on Hawaii Island.
Kiyoshi Adachi, who previously worked for the Hawaii Ant Lab in Hilo as its senior research associate and as a pest control technician for the state Department of Agriculture, will lead Hawaii Ant Lab’s new extension office in Captain Cook.
Funding of $200,000 for the position and office, which is located in University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Extension Center in Kainaliu, was allocated by the 2018 state Legislature.
“With the spread of fire ant populations in West Hawaii, we needed someone on the ground here to meet the growing needs of the West Hawaii community,” said Rep. Nicole Lowen, D-North Kona, who helped secure the funding. “Kiyoshi is the ideal person for this job because he has the needed expertise and experience, and he also understands how to work effectively with local residents and businesses.”
Hawaii Ant Lab research manager Casper Vanderwoude said Adachi will improve the capacity to reach out to residents, the farming community and businesses in West Hawaii and respond to requests for help.
“Kiyoshi is passionate about protecting the Big Island’s natural resources and lifestyle from invasive species,” Vanderwoude said. “We are extremely grateful to Rep. Lowen and to the Legislature for their work in securing this funding to expand our services.”
Adachi was born and raised on the Hamakua Coast and is a graduate of Laupahoehoe High School.
“I am happy to be back at Hawaii Ant Lab and am looking forward to helping the people of West Hawaii to control and eradicate these invasive fire ants, and to helping farmers mitigate impacts on agriculture,” Adachi said. “As a lifelong resident of Hawaii Island, I know how important this work is to preserving our way of life for future generations.”
First discovered on the Big Island in 1999, little fire ant infestations are now widespread throughout the windward side of the island. Smaller infestations have been found in the North and South Kona areas.
Infestations also have been reported on Oahu, Kauai and Maui. Little fire ants are not known to be present on Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe.
Originally from Central and South America, the little fire ant is considered among the world’s worst invasive species. The ants measure in at 1/16th of an inch and are pale orange in color, according to the DOA. Little fire ants can produce painful stings and large red welts and can cause blindness in pets.
More information about controlling little fire ants is available at www.littlefireants.com or by calling 209-9014.