UOG puts out APB for little fire ant - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

UOG puts out APB for little fire ant

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Over the last few years there's been a concerted effort to eradicate the coconut rhinoceros beetle, but officials have found a much smaller foe that could do millions of dollars worth of damage. It may be known as the little fire ant, but its impact to the ecosystem is hardly little. 

University of Guam entomologist Dr. Ross Miller confirms the tiny non-descript ant was found at Primos Northern Hardill for Organic Materials in Yigo and experts in Hawaii have confirmed their identity. "Guam is perfect," Miller explained. "They're a tropical ant, they live in tropical rainforests, they love disturbed areas, which most of Guam is. That means the forest has been cut down or re-grown and they basically can live almost anywhere. They live from the tops of the trees down to the bottom of the ground."

The ant has wreaked havoc in Hawaii and New Caledonia. The Australian government has also spent $12 million trying to eradicate infestations found in Cairns and Brisbane. Miller predicts that the tiny fire ant can do more damage to Guam than the brown tree snake because it has the potential to destroy Guam's ecosystem. For humans, encountering a little fire ant will cause plenty of discomfort, saying, "For humans they sting, but they're so small that the stings are not very powerful. The problem is you get hundreds and hundreds of them on you and they sting kind of at the same time, and so they leave a rash it itches. It's really uncomfortable.

"The problem is again is that they're so abundant that as you walk through the forest or if you're at home picking fruit, they swarm onto your arms or body, you don't know about them until they start stinging you."

UOG officials are now trying to determine the extent of the infestation by putting out an all-points bulletin for these little guys. Said Miller, "They look like a normal ant; they're light brown, they're hard to see because they're so small. And that's it - they look like little brown specks."

For more information about the little fire ant, you can call the territorial entomologist at 472-5812, Extension 15 or Dr. Miller at 735-2141.

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