The invasive stinging ants were found on Thursday.

Punahou School has delayed the sale of plants at its annual Punahou Carnival after little fire ants were discovered among 400 plants donated by Oahu nurseries.

An Oahu Invasive Species Council staffer discovered the ants on Thursday while doing routine inspections of donated plants, as it does annually alongside Hawaii Ant Lab.

Department of Agriculture plant quarantine inspection staff were dispatched to survey and isolate the infested plants, and the school has delayed the plant sale pending the results of a DOA survey tomorrow.

A second survey, performed on Friday morning, did not find further infestations in the plants.

Little fire ants are considered a serious pest, able to inflict painful stings and welts. They can also cause blindness in pets.

“We appreciate the school’s concern and exemplary cooperation in helping to stop the spread of invasive pests,” DOA Director Sharon Hurd said in a press release.

  • ‘Hawaii Grown’ Special Series

The plants were part of a “commingled shipment of donated plants from several Oahu nurseries,” the release said.

Pre-sale surveys of plants at Punahou Carnival have run since 2019 after a resident found the plant they purchased was infested, a month after the event.

The DOA knows of at least five Oahu nurseries that have been knowingly and willingly selling infested plant products to the public, which officials said resulted in court action last year.

The state ag agency still does not have the power to restrict the movement of infested plant materials, though it is currently in the process of changing its rules to better empower itself to do so.

Hawaii Grown” is funded in part by grants from the Stupski Foundation, Ulupono Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Frost Family Foundation.

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