LFA Options for Kōkua Harvest Hosts
How to Prepare Your Property for Harvesting
One of the worst experiences a fruit picker can have is getting rained on by little fire ants (LFA). When the fruit is pulled the tree shakes and the ants (who aren’t very good at clinging) come falling down onto unsuspecting volunteers.
Help the Kōkua Harvest Volunteers by managing the LFA on your property!
Hundreds of little fire ants on a tree trunk
LFA are very small! (Photo: Zach Pezzillo)
Do I Have Little Fire Ants?
Little fire ants are now present in every district of the Big Island. Ants can move easily on many items, can “raft” downstream in heavy rain, and can spread quietly and unnoticed for many months before anyone realizes they’ve arrived! You can never be sure that you don’t have LFA unless you actively look for them (2-4 times per year). The good news is, it is fast, cheap, and easy to test for LFA, and the earlier you find a population, the quicker you can get rid of them.
Here is a two-minute video on surveying your yard for LFA:
I Do Have Ants…how do I treat for them?
Because they can form a super-nest made up of many hundreds of queens tucked into dozens of nooks and crannies, LFA populations can reach up to 20,000 ants per square meter! This can make outdoor spaces almost unusable – and it’s only a matter of time before the ants make their way from the backyard into the home. The sooner after infestation you start your ant treatment, the easier and cheaper it will be. Even if you live in an area that has a lot of LFA, it is possible to eradicate them on your property – we’ve worked with hundreds of property owners in Puna, Hilo, and all over the island who now enjoy their LFA-free space.
Controlling LFA is not as expensive or complicated as you might think. There are multiple options, but the two key things to remember are:
- Use a bait product. Some bait products may be more appropriate for your particular type of landscape (eg. gel baits for heavy vegetation, Siesta for orchard trees). If for some reason you can’t apply the “ideal” solution, applying any bait product regularly is going to reduce the population of LFA in your yard and keep them from expanding. Just make sure you’re following any restrictions on the label!
- Apply every 4-6 weeks for a year. Whatever product you choose, the application timing is the same – and it’s critical! Because LFA have many nests with multiple queens it can take over a year to completely get rid of them. The best time to start is right now! The longer you put off treating the larger the population will be as ants continue to multiply.
For even better results, get your neighbors on board! The larger the treatment area the more successful you will be. We offer a free Community Support Program for those who want to get rid of LFA in their neighborhood!
But the Volunteers are Coming This Week…what can I do today?!
If the volunteers are coming and you haven’t yet begun your treatment schedule, the best thing you could do is to treat the harvest areas with Antixx. The active ingredient in Antixx, spinosad, is an organic product that is safe to use on fruit trees and crops. It’s also extremely easy to apply, as a granular bait which can be lightly tossed into and around trees scheduled for harvest. Apply the bait a day or two before volunteers are scheduled to arrive.
Antixx is available at many locations around the island, and if your local store isn’t yet carrying it – call them and ask them to bring it in. It’s only become available for LFA here in the last year, so not all businesses are aware.
Remember, this should knock down the population of stinging workers and hopefully create a less uncomfortable situation for the harvesters, but a single treatment will never get rid of all of the ants. Continue to apply every 4-6 weeks for long-term results.
What Not to Do:
Never apply a contact insecticide, like Talstar, Home Defense, or Bifen, to your fruit trees. As the name implies, this type of pesticide kills insects on contact. They’re great to create barriers and can be very effective when used to keep ants away from your house foundation, out of your carport, off your water catchment, etc. However, they will kill many more insects than just ants – hundreds of species, including pollinators and decomposers like butterflies, bees, moths, native flies, and more, are susceptible!Â Apply these products carefully only where it is unlikely that our beneficial insects will come into contact with them.
These products will also only kill worker ants – they will not reach the queens, who will respond to any loss in population by increasing reproduction and pumping out hundreds of new workers. So you’re still stuck with your LFA problem!
Not sure if your product is a contact insecticide? If comes as a spray, or as granules with the instructions that say to “wet to activate,” this is almost certainly a contact killer. You can also look for the active ingredient “bifenthrin” or “cyfluthrin.” Always read the label!
Mahalo for participating in this amazing program by donating your produce, keeping Kōkua Harvest volunteers safe, and doing your part to stop the spread of LFA on the Big Island.