A carpenter ant species not currently known to be established in Hawaii was detected at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
The ants were discovered on Feb. 24 in two shipping containers with large oak timbers from Tennessee slated for use in a dry-dock project. Crews were able to seal the containers and state inspectors quickly them under quarantine.
KHON2 learned of the discovery after a viewer told us about it via Report It.
Pest Control personnel from Naval Facilities Engineering Command Hawaii were called out, and the contents of each container were treated in the morning and then again in the afternoon.
The Hawaii Department of Agriculture was on scene, collected some of the ants and identified them as Camponotus pennsylvanicus, a common pest on the mainland.
They can grow to a half-inch in length and are bigger than any other ant currently found in Hawaii. You can also hear them whey they are around. At large nests, these ants produce a crackling sound.
“The ant is primarily found in the eastern half of the United States,” Christopher Kishimoto, plant quarantine entomologist. “It doesn’t feed on the wood but it bores through the wood to get to where it wants to go.”
Experts say these ants can be destructive.
“They don’t generally cause as much damage as termites for example, but if you let their colonies go for too long, they will create structural damage,” said Paul Krushelnycky, assistant researcher, University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. “They excavate wood and mature colonies can contain thousands of workers, so it is something to be concerned about.”
The exact number of black carpenter ants is unknown but the state says the shipping container has at least one colony.
Kishimoto says even though the containers were treated, more needs to be done.
“After a couple of applications, we figured that it wasn’t working as well as it should be, so we’re going to have them treat with a different kind of chemical,” he said. “We’ll do follow-up inspections. We’re going to send our inspectors out when they actually do the fumigation. We’ll watch them do the fumigation, and we’ll come back and open the containers and verify the ants have all been killed.”
The state is recommending that the Navy use Vikane to treat the ants, a common gas fumigant used to kill termites.
It’s also working with the Navy to see if the timber can still be saved.
The last time black carpenter ants were discovered here was about 12 years ago and the state was able them to get rid of them.
Hawaii has one species of carpenter ant currently in Hawaii, which is a lot lighter in color, and not known to cause much structural damage.