"Little" fire ants a big problem - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

"Little" fire ants a big problem

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - It was back in November 2011 the little fire ant was first sighted on Guam at Primo Hardfill in Yigo. Fast forward to today and the island's latest invasive species has been spotted throughout the island, as far south as the village of Merizo.

Measuring at a tiny 1/16th of an inch, the little fire ant is almost invisible to the naked eye. That is, until hundreds take a bite. "It's rather deceptive. The ant is very small and a single ant is kind of wimpy it doesn't sting very hard the problem is that this ant ranges from below ground to the tops of trees and the numbers build up so high that when you walk through the forest it's like raining ants on you so you may get several hundred on you and then when they start stinging then you feel them," said Dr. Ross Miller.  

But it's bigger than an ant problem as the professor of entomology reports, it's a threat ecologically. "Ecologically the ant destroys all the other animals in the forest, in the fields around it so it kind of creates an ecological desert in the areas where it infests," he said.

Slowly but surely, the ants have localized to about 13 areas on island. "It's really our people who spread it around especially with plants and things like that so if the public is made aware that it moves by human transport we can slow that down and keep it from spreading all over the place," he said.

But how to control the little pest? Territorial entomologist Dr. Russell Campbell tells KUAM News agriculture officials met with Governor Eddie Calvo to express their concerns. "We've had this problem on Guam for the last year and half or so and its been slowly spreading the thing we wanted to bring forward now is that we recently met with Governor Calvo and brought the importance of this problem to him and he has issued an executive order on the 12th of this month which allows us to free up a little bit of money so we can get some pesticides and hopefully help the public that are suffering from the little fire ant if they have it around their homes," he said.

$15,000 to be exact - all money that will be used for the purchase of pesticides and application equipment. Although grateful for the funding, miller reports it's much more expensive to eradicate estimating a quarter of a million dollars to fund the staff, pesticides, and intensive treatment needed to be done over a period of at least two years. If you think your yard may be infested with little fire ants, call 475-PEST.

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