17 Aug 2014
- By Jasmine Stole - email@example.com - Variety News Staff
HAGÅTÑA — Efforts to eradicate the little fire ant species that has invaded Guam yielded positive results since the Department of Agriculture and University of Guam’s Roland Quitugua have been treating known sites over the last few months.
Quitugua, operations chief of the Guam Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Eradication program, said there are 14 confirmed sites of little fire ant colonies on island and the Department of Agriculture and Quitugua have used pesticides to treat five of them. Quitugua said so far it seems the treatments are going well and the population size at the treated sites are decreasing. However, agriculture authorities have yet to determine if ants at the sites have been completely eradicated, Quitugua said.
Depending on where the colonies are located, different pesticides were used for the five sites on Guam. Colonies that have made their home on the ground are treated with a pesticide called Andro, Quitugua said, which can be bought at a home improvement store. For colonies in trees, authorities are using a treatment called Tango, with bait.
The absence or presence of the ants are done using chopsticks set in a grid and coated with peanut butter, Quitugua said.
Quitugua said eliminating the little fire ants has been easier because the tools for eradicating them are readily available.
The same, however, cannot be said for the coconut rhino beetle, which continues to cause damage to coconut trees all over Guam. The Guam Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Eradication team maintain traps made out of 50-gallon drums, buckets in coconut trees with UV lights and beetle pheromone attractors. Quitugua said that other traps and modifications to existing traps are still being considered.
One method the team is considering is releasing male rhino beetles into known breeding sites. The males will be infected with a virus that will infect the other beetles in the population, hopefully reducing the numbers.
The plan is to breed healthy beetles in a lab and then infect them with the virus and the beetles found in the traps are infected with a fungus that kills the beetles, Quitugua said. “The fungus is working well,” he said. “Some people might say, ‘Why are you going to release beetles?’ But please understand that what we’re trying to do is the kind of bio control that has been done traditionally with fruit flies.”
So far none have been released, Quitugua said. The team is still testing the effectiveness of some viruses.
The rhino beetle was first found in 2006 in Tumon, but since has spread to every village on Guam.
The little fire ants were discovered in 2011 on the back road to Andersen Air Force Base.