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Have you seen little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata)?
Hawaii Early Detection Network Priority Pest for the islands of Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, and the Dry-side of the Big Island Hawaii

Rubber vine flower detail
These ants are really tiny
Little fire ant
Image: SM Gallagher, AntWeb, hosted by California Academy of Sciences
little red fire ant
Close-up of a worker

Identification: This small orange ant is 1.6 mm (1/16 in) long. This ant is not aggressive and MOVES VERY SLOWLY AND SLUGGISHLY, but will sting when trapped under clothing or in hair. The sting PRODUCES LARGE WELTS that persist for days. Little fire ant does NOT build mounded dirt nests, and nests in a variety of habitats including in trees, around potted plants, irrigation lines, and in electrical boxes.
Impacts: The speck-sized ant invades agricultural areas and nurseries putting coffee growers and flower pickers at risk of being stung. Many farm owners have had diffi culties retaining workers who fear the fi re ant bite. Besides being a serious nuisance to humans, this ant has been known to attack the eyes of domestic animals and blind them.
Dispersal Mechanism: LFA will find their way into the nooks and crannies of potted plants, flowers, clumps of grass, and leaf litter. To the dismay of many residents, little fire ants also enter Big Island homes getting into clothes, beds, furniture and food. In Hawaii, the little fire ant is currently found the Big Island and small, contained infestations on Maui an Kauai. If you encounter this ant anywhere else let someone know!

Visit the Pacific Ant Invasive online key or download the Identifying the Little Fire Ant flyer PDF icon for more identification details.

You can test for LFA in your area with peanut butter bait (use these collection instructions). Take your ant samples to one of the walk-in locations for identification!

Little fire ant look-alikes:

Tropical fire ant (Solenopsis geminata):
The tropical fire ant is common throughout Hawaii. A microscope is required to tell the difference between the tropical and other fire ants. This small red ant is 3-6 mm (1/8-1/4 in) long, much larger than the little fire ant. Some of the workers will have proportionately large heads. This ant is restricted to dry coastal areas and nests in the soil, it does not construct mounds. Tropical fire ant stings will cause irritation, but should not cause white pus filled blisters that persist for days.

Tropical Fire Ant
Tropical fire ant worker with a proportionately large head

Tetramorium ant (Tetramorium simillimum):
The tetramorium ant is a small red ant of similar size and shape to the little fire ant, but moves about with much greater speed.

Tetramorium ant
Tetramorium ant (Tetramorium simillimum)
Last Updated: Monday January 30 2012. If you have any questions about the Hawaii Early Detection Network contact
Funding and support for this project was made possible by the Hawai'i Invasive Species Council, the USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry assistance, and University of Hawai'i-Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit.