A Call to Arms / LFA Hui on Big Island

Hawai’i already suffers from more invasive species than any other state in the nation and remains constantly vulnerable to them due to its heavy reliance on imports.  Almost 90% of our food and a large number of plants come from the outside and provide avenues for their entry.  Once invasive species reach the Islands their impacts are often swift and severe due to our unique, fragile ecosystem.


Governor Ige recently summed up our vulnerability and the importance of immediate action in a single sentence: “Invasive species pose the single greatest threat to Hawaii’s economy and natural environment, and the health and lifestyle of Hawaii’s people.”


Despite these imminent dangers only 4% of the state budget is dedicated to addressing this paramount threat. Similarly, only a very small portion of the public is currently aware of these imminent dangers.


If the introduction of invasive species is left unchecked the consequences will be devastating, particularly in the case of the little fire ant (LFA).  Entomologists who have studied this one species have concluded that as LFA “spreads through the islands of Hawaii, the economic and ecological impacts are likely to be catastrophic.”


An excellent seven-minute YouTube video title “Invasion: Little Fire Ants in Hawaii” is circulating among community members. It explains what’s at stake for our county and state and can be accessed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJ8TQ_ASsYQ


Little Fire Ant HUI was established in November 2016 to address the exploding LFA crisis in Hawaii. It is the first citizen-based organization to bring a broad coalition of state and county elected and appointed officials, government agencies, private and public interests, and community together to create policies and programs for greater public awareness and education, better surveying and mapping, and improved control and eradication of LFA in the County of Hawaii.

Little Fire Ant HUI’s first initiative is to educate all concerned parties and increase “all hands on deck” participation for greater LFA control through a series of workshops on the Big Island. The first of these workshops is being launched with the training of landscape and yard care personnel in partnership with Hawaii Ant Lab (HAL) and Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC).


HAL just conducted a successful four-hour workshop at Four Season’s Hualalai on the Big Island. Attendees included landscape directors and their staff from resort properties at the Four Season’s Hualalai, Mauna Lani, Fairmont Orchid, Marriott Waikoloa, Hilton Waikoloa, Kohanaiki, Mauna Kea, Waikaloa Land Co., Holualoa Inn, Prince Hapuna and Kukio. Attendees holding restricted use pesticide permits received 4 credits in Categories 3, 6 and 10.


Workshops cover LFA entomology and the importance of vigilance, early detection, and avoidance of certain high-risk behaviors as well best practices and treatment options.  Upcoming workshops include a yard care training workshop conducted by Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC) on June 21st and a PCO training workshop conducted by Hawaii Ant Lab (HAL) on August 11th.


Homeowners who would like assistance with LFA control on their property should not only encourage their yard care personnel and pest control operator (PCO) to seek LFA training but also seek the services of those who have that training.


Little Fire Ant HUI will soon be expanding its educational outreach through a new separate organization, Hawaii Unite Against Invasives, LLC. This enterprise will be mounting Hawaii’s first public awareness Biosecurity & Risk Communication campaign using a comprehensive Biosecurity website.  That platform will allow the state’s citizens, concerned agencies, non-profits, partners and stakeholders to go to one location to easily access and share biosecurity information, resources and relevant social media platforms. Hawaii Unite will seek further opportunities to share risk communications and biosecurity education through public forums and media outlets.


The Landscape Industry is in a unique position to provide a front line of defense to the threats from the LFA and other harmful species.  In the absence of education and action, however, it can also unwittingly foster the spread and infestation of those species throughout the Islands.  Due to importance of the issue, the Industry’s participation is central to this fight and likely will be increasingly scrutinized by the public and regulators.  Suppliers and service providers who join in are likely to not only be preferred by the public, but can also have an important voice in shaping public-private partnership and funding for the battles to come.


If you’d like to make your voice heard regarding better policy and increased funding to address this crisis consider testifying next legislative session – beginning January 2018. Together we will make a difference.


For more information go to:  http://www.hiunite.com



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About the author  ⁄ Garrett Webb

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