hawaii's "fire ant" eye epidemic

The condition is called tropical keratopathy and is found in tropical and semi-tropical places, especially where there are Little Fire Ants (LFA). We suggest calling this condition “Fire Ant” Eye.

While there is strong circumstantial evidence showing that “Fire Ant” Eye occurs where there are LFA, there has been no observation of LFA actually stinging animals' eyes and causing this cloudiness. And since animals seem to develop the eye spots without showing the signs of eye inflammation and irritation (which you would expect from a fire ant sting to the eye), there must be more to the picture than just the ant. 

In fact, research does shows a bacterial infection in the

cloudy spots. Bacteria are also known to infect human

eyes and cause similar cloudy spots. 

What may be happening, then, is that the fire ants

irritate the eye, allowing the bacteria to enter and

slowly grow. 

But some Hawaii veterinarians doubt the ants

are involved. Some think this eye problem may be

a new one, not tropical keratopathy. 

So the cause and cure are still a mystery. But we don't have to be left in the dark.

The good news is that antibiotics may help cure this. We need to identify the exact species of bacteria involved, and then find the correct antibiotic to use.

One thing is sure. The problem is getting worse each day, and already is affecting thousands of pets on the Big Island.


​To find out more about the Little Fire Ant, go to the Hawaii Ant Lab.