Little fire ants yet to be spotted in Samoa

Little fire ants are yet to be spotted in Samoa and should not be confused with the local tropical fire ant.

That is the view of David Moverley, who is the invasive species adviser at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

The little fire ant – which is also known as the Wasmannia Auropunctata – are small and native to central and south America. 

They are known to sting people, children and domestic animals once aggravated. The sting is known to affect people to varying degrees from a painful rash to raised welts.

“There is a local tropical fire ant here in Samoa that people might get confused with but is not as bad as the little fire ant,” he said.

The little fire ant is known to spread – and infestations are capable of making harvesting crops and removing the infestation difficult – like it has for American Samoa. 

Currently, the little fire ant has occupied 2.5 hectares of an area in American Samoa, which Mr. Moverley said compelled authorities in the American territory to do a lot of awareness to prevent its spreading. 

“But because it (area) is that big, it would probably take about three to four years. And it would take us a similar amount of time before we notice it,” he added.

SPREP is currently working with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to prevent the little fire ant from invading Samoa.

When Mr. Moverley was asked about the risk to Samoa, he said: “No there aren’t any fire ants in Samoa that we are aware of and we intend to keep it that way.” 

According to the invasive species experts, the little red fire ant is the greatest ant species threat in the region and while it takes a couple of years to know for certain if it is in Samoa, the SPREP and local partners continue to be vigilant and raise awareness.

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