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Guam - 55 trees were slated to be cut down beginning this morning at the War in the Pacific's Asan Beach unit, but the cutting was stopped this morning when the “little fire ant” was found in one area of the park.

Guam - 55 trees were slated to be cut down beginning this morning at the War in the Pacific's Asan Beach unit, but the cutting was stopped this morning when the “little fire ant” was found in one area of the park.

 It's a new invasive species that UOG entomologist Dr. Ross Miller believes could be worse than the rhino beetle. However, by this afternoon the center of the park had been deemed free of the “little fire ant” and the trees in that area began to fall.

"Just today we found a little fire ant on one end of the area where we were going to do sanitation on -excuse me- on both ends and so with that in mind we decided we're going to hold off at this point until the Department of Ag can give us the reccomendations as to how we're going to mitigate the little fire ant,” said Coconut Rhino Beetle Eradication Chief of Operations Roland Quitugua.

Quitugua says they don't want to spread the little fire ant anywhere else. It's a new invasive species on guam that UOG entomologist Dr. Ross Miller believes could be worse than the coconut rhino beetle or the brown tree snake. The ant lives in trees where it blankets the forest. It attacks humans leaving a bad rash, it attacks the eyes of household pets leaving them blind, and it attacks crops stunting their growth causing fruit to spoil and fall young. It's already a huge pest in parts of Hawaii and Dr. Miller fears it could hurt Guam's tourism industry. "What we don't want to do is take down the coconut trees and then transport them and in the process spread the little fire ant to other areas."

So one section of the park where the ant was found was left alone but the rest of the park was later deemed free of the little fire ant and the tree cutting began. "Today a very important natural resource here on Guam is under threat by a very destructive and invasive species the coconut rhinocerous beetle,” said Park Ranger Ben Hayes. The National Park Service is removing 33 large coconut trees and 22 small coconut trees. The good news is most of the trees will remain at least for now. "We have over 650 trees counted here at Asan beach. We're moving less than ten percent of the trees over the next two days. Additional removals may be required but coconut trees will remain a part of the landscape at Asan beach,” said Hayes.

They will not be planting new coconut trees because they are extremely vulnerable to the rhino beetle. Instead they will be planting other native trees to add to the natural surrounding of the park including Da'ok or palo maria, Gago or ironwood, and Puting or fishkill. "We will not plant new coconut trees until we are certain they can survive,” said Hayes. The way to ensure their survival is to destroy the breeding site that is nearby. "We first learned that we have a breeding site in the park back in 2011 and that's our green waste pile at our maintenance yard. Steps were immediately taken to remove the green waste and for treatment in partnership with the coconut rhinocerous beetle eradication team. Since then of course we have a tremendous amount of green waste we generate on a daily basis and right now we dont have the equipment or resources to adequately treat the green waste we have here,” said Hayes.

The good news is that they have received a grant from the U.S. forest service and National Park Service to help treat the green waste and help remove it from the park. "The most important takeaway is that breeding cites can occur in any breeding pile so the main thing to remember is that this is not only a park issue or a problem here at Asan beach but truly an islandwide issue that we only can deal with together as an island community,” said Hayes.

The National Park Service will continue cutting down coconut trees tomorrow. They will also continue to monitor the trees that are still there to see if any more need to be cut down in the future.