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Paradise lost: The alien invasion of Hawaii

Over the past three decades, little fire ants have spread throughout the Pacific region and have badly infested parts of Tahiti, Papua New Guinea, northern Australia and the Galápagos Islands. Easily transported by human commerce, they are capable of stowing away in almost anything — cargo, baggage, building materials, cars, potted plants and produce. Wasmannia auropunctata is just one of roughly 40 invasive species that afflict the Hawaii islands; the onslaught of invasive species in the island state contributes to more endangered species per square mile here than anywhere else in the world. But the little fire ant has an impact disproportionate to its size. If Hawaii doesn’t step up its efforts to combat the ants, according to University of Hawaii estimates, over the next 10 years, individuals and businesses on the Big Island will have to bear losses of $140 million, spend $1.2 billion on mitigation and treatment and suffer 390 million stings. “It doesn’t just affect one segment of society; it affects all segments of society,” said Casper Vanderwoude, the ant man of Hawaii. He runs the Hawaii Ant Lab in Hilo, on the Big Island, which is dedicated to eradicating little fire ants. He gives monthly “ant-killing 101” workshops that are habitually oversubscribed, and he taught Works, Bogner and Gibbs everything they know about tracking the critters. Vanderwoude estimates that around a third of the houses in Hilo are infested. via Al Jazeera America.

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