Little Fire Ants Causing Big Problems on Guam

Wasmannia auropunctata, the little fire ant. Photo by Alex Wild. www.alexanderwild.com

How bad is the little fire ant situation on Guam? Bad enough for the University of Guam to release a statement telling the island’s residents, “If you haven’t been affected by LFA yet, you will be” without control efforts.

“What this ant does is that it swarms and pretty much eats all of the animals, all of the small insects, the small snails, lizzards, geckos. It pretty much makes the forest a wasteland,” said Dr. Ross Miller of the University of Guam Entomology Lab. “It’s just devastating.”

The little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) is on the list of the top 100 nastiest invasive species worldwide and is considered the greatest invasive ant threat to the Pacific region. They deliver a very painful sting, causing an extremely itchy rash. Guam has already had one incident of a child needing medical treatment after being stung by LFA. Since they can live in trees, LFA drop on people when the wind is strong, or when people brush against plants while walking through the jungle, or while harvesting fruit. In some places in Tahiti and Hawaii, people can no longer harvest their crops and have given up farming in areas infested with LFA.

The Guam Department of Agriculture and the University of Guam are trying to protect the island’s natural environment from the devastating effects of invasive species like the LFA. In fact, the USDA Forest Service has recently awarded a $50,000 grant to Dr. Miller to implement control procedures.

To see the little fire ants in action on Guam and in the state of Hawaii, watch the videos below:


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