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Daily Pilot

Search for invasive ants widens throughout county

2:14 PM PDT, May 5, 2014

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When it comes to finding Pheildole megacephala, state and local officials have upped the ante.

The state Department of Food and Agriculture's search for the invasive ant species continued this week, as officials set up hundreds of bait stations to see how far the colony may have spread since it was first discovered in a Costa Mesa neighborhood last month.

The stations — 20 per square mile — will be positioned in Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Irvine, Santa Ana and Westminster. The search area encompasses a 5-mile radius from the original infestation site at Kornat and Europa drives in Costa Mesa's Mesa Verde neighborhood.

The species of so-called bigheaded ants poses no significant threat to humans — it doesn't sting or have a painful bite — but can be dangerous to native ant populations.

Officials believe this recent sighting is the first time the species has been found in the wild in California.

In the U.S., Pheildole megacephala is common in Florida and Hawaii. The species is native to Africa.

Residents with questions about the bigheaded ants can call state officials at (800) 491-1899, or Richard Tiffer or Mike Bennett at the Orange County Agricultural Commissioner's office at (714) 955-0100.

—Bradley Zint

Twitter: @bradleyzint