Since arriving in the Puna area in 1999, the Little Fire Ant or Wasmannia auropunctata has created a lot of pain in paradise. Though tiny, each ant delivers a painful sting. It is different from a mosquito bite in that the welt and sting lingers longer. And often ants will bite simultaneously making a bigger “Ouch”!
This bite is very unpleasant. However, for years fire ants have been all over Hawaii island so we have had to accept that they are one of the costs of living in paradise.
Some of our visitors are not so understanding! People can get so upset when they’ve been bitten that they take out their anger on us! While we understand your pain as we’ve all been bitten minuscule monsters, we politely request that you don’t get mad at us! We are not responsible for bringing these pesky pests here!
Though we have had to make certain adjustments to these tiny terrors, we are still happy to note that Hawaii is the safest jungle in the world and the worst thing that will happen to you from an animal over is that you will receive a bite from mosquitos and fire ants.
Though some of our visitors would like us to destroy these mini-maniacs in any way possible, as an eco-community we CANNOT just continually douse our property with poison as that would go against the very grain of our environmental values.
We are continually adjusting and refining eco-friendly ways to deal with these itsy bitsy insects. However, natural methods are not 100% effective. So we have adopted a reactive policy. As an eco-community, we use poison only when we receive a complaint or if we see them in a lodging or facility.
We simply cannot get rid of them as they are on our neighbor’s properties as well. However, unlike many other hotels or communities, we transparently publish information about most of the challenges of living in the Hawaiian rain forest.
Fire Ant Info:
- Delivers a painful sting when disturbed. Welts can last for weeks
- Infests agricultural fields and farms, where they damage crops and sting workers
- Promotes plant pests such as aphids, whiteflies and scale insects, which secrete plant sap that the ants eat. In turn, the ants protect these insects from natural predators and parasites.
- Can also infest houses, beds, furniture, and food
If bitten by a Fire Ant:
- Eucalyptus/tea tree/lemongrass essential oil are all effective bug repellents.
- Lavender oil is also soothing for skin and can be added as a bug repellent.
- Interestingly, the inside of a banana peel when applied directly to the bite, can bring immediate relief from the itching sensation! Works for mosquitos too!
Warning! We strongly request that ALL guests, volunteers, and interns NOT to bring food to their bed space otherwise they will sleep painfully with fire ants!
Little Fire Ant Physical Description:
- Orange-red to reddish brown in color, all workers are 1.5 mm in length (as long as a penny is thick, about 1/16 “)
- Slow-moving, easily dislodged from leaves, plants
- Native to Central and South America, accidentally introduced as hitchhikers on imported plants
Fire Ants Volunteers, Guests & Refunds: A Fire Ant is considered an act of nature. If you are bitten by an ant, LET THE INTERN(S) ON DUTY KNOW IMMEDIATELY. We take this very seriously and will respond as such by using the most eco-friendly poison to get rid of the ants.
However, if a guest is adamant about receiving a refund and leaving then they can complete the Compassionate Refund and conduct themselves with aloha until they leave.
We have been educating ourselves about LFA. An entire colony can fit inside a macadamia nut (that’s small!) and each colony has one egg-laying queen who commands the entire colony through pheromones. When the queen recognizes the colony as under threat, she will activate between 3-12 “virgin queens,” as well as drones, who will then create mating swarms, if all of which survive, will result in tens of thousands more ants!
We are building an open source fire ant control method page. Please feel free to share any information you have about how to control these unwelcome invaders!
Personal Protection & Prevention Tips
Some people like to use food-based personal lubricants or lotions (coco oil, olive oil, etc) and those happen to be some of the strongest ant attractants!
Fire Ant Info Sources: