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Invasive insect pest found in Hawaii

Nov. 1, 2011 at 8:36 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Nov. 1 (UPI) -- A common pest on the U.S. mainland known for its tropical smell has invaded a tropical territory, Hawaii, and looks ready to stay, researchers say.

Scientists at Purdue University report odorous house ants, so-called because they tend to invade houses and smell like coconut if stepped on, have found their way to Hawaii and have established colonies much larger than those of their mainland counterparts.

"Odorous house ants in Hawaii are not like they are here in natural areas where they live in small colonies. They are creating megacolonies like they do in urban areas," Purdue University entomologist Grzegorz Buczkowski said. "We went there to eliminate the ants, but we found it's too late to treat for them."

Odorous house ants are especially troublesome in the continental United States because they are difficult to remove, Buczkowski said. A nest might be eliminated inside a house but other nests could be in nearby yards, allowing the ants to come back.

"It's one of the worst, if not the worst, pest species in homes," Buczkowski said.

It's too soon to know what the effect of odorous house ants will be on Hawaii's native plant and animal species, he said, but he wants to monitor the ecosystem around their nests.

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