Little fire ants alarm, public urged to watch out

The discovery of little fire ants, known as Wasmannia auropunctata, in American Samoa has put a temporary stop to importing of planting materials from around the Pacific.

The Ministries of Natural Resources and Environment has advised the public to be “especially vigilant” and to report any sightings of the ants.

Import permits for fresh flowers, nursery stocks and other planting materials have been temporarily suspended, and all incoming cargo from American Samoa, Hawaii, New Caledonia, Tahiti, Guam, Wallis and Futuna, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands will be sprayed with low-toxic insect sprays at all entry points in Samoa.

“The public, especially those travelling between American Samoa and the Independent State of Samoa are therefore advised to please adhere to precautionary measures to avoid the Little Fire Ant from entering Samoa’s borders,” the ministry announcement reads. 

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The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (S.P.R.E.P) is working with M.N.R.E and M.A.F to prevent the little fire ant from arriving in Samoa. 

The species is one of Hawaii’s most notable invasive species. According to the Pacific Invasive Ant Toolkit, the little fire ant will look like a little orange dot to the average person, as they are very small.

Also knows as the electric ant, they nest indoors as well as outside, and their sting causes a painful, itchy rash which is worse for children than adults.

Infestations of little fire ants can make harvesting crops and removing the infestation near impossible due to the stinging, and can cause blindness, or tropical keratopathy in livestock.

They spread quickly because their nests are easily moved by the wind, or by movement of waste where they often nest, the Toolkit reports.

According to early research, matters re worse in agricultural and forestry land. In 1994, it was reported that: “W. auropunctata commonly shows extreme population explosions and “is capable under some circumstances of wiping out entire ant faunas over large areas ... forming in many places a living blanket of ants that kill and eat nearly all other ants in their path.”

The Ministries urge the public if they see any suspicious ants to please call M.A.F 20924 or 7767305 or M.N.R.E 67200 or 7538881.

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