Wherever you travel within the United States, you are going to discover pests and ants.  To be more specific, harvester ants. It doesn’t matter if you visit the suburbs or a farm; ants are going to be a common sight.  Let us begin by explaining what a Harvester Ant is.

What are Harvester Ants?

Several harvester ants on the ground looking for food

Foraging food is a typical trait for harvester ant workers. They sometimes consume insects. However, this is not always popular. Their main food source is plants and mushrooms, and they also like seeds. Below are some specific attributes characteristic of the harvester ant:

  • Their color varies from dark brown to black to red or orange
  • The harvester ant has 6 legs
  • Harvester ants have two antennae
  • Their body is comprised of two small segments
  • There is a single pair of spines, making up the midsection of the harvester ant body
  • The head of a harvester ant is barbatus- having long hairs on it in the shape of a beard
  • Harvester ants can be discovered west of the Mississippi River

What is Pogonomyrmex spp?

This is the scientific term for harvester ant.  Seeds are an essential part of their food, as their common name indicates.  The Harvester ant Pogonomyrmex worker ants are continuously patrolling for dead insects and dead ants everywhere. There are numerous subfamilies of genera that make up the harvester ant Pogonomyrmex such as Ponerinae, Formicinae, and Myrmicinae.

Where is Harvester Ants Pogonomyrmex Most Common?

Harvester ants are most commonly seen as pests that are a stinging hazard within North, Central, and South America.  In North America alone, there are seven species of harvester ants that are small but pose a stinging threat.  Some typical names like the red harvester ant also include the California harvester ant and the western harvester ant.

Harvester Worker Ants

A close up look of the Pogonomyrmex worker ant

A Pogonomyrmex worker ant measures around 10 mm long.  The harvester ant's pogonomyrmex color is brown or light red.  Although a few species are darker brown and some are black little ants. One might recognize the bottom of these ants' heads has a hair-like fringe known as psammophore.  Many species utilize this for nest excavation, enabling them to spread along with the nesting material like a bulldozer.

Species of Harvester Ants

Often Red Harvester ants are confused with the fire ant.  However, the harvester ant species and the fire ant species are of no relation.

The Harvester Ant Nesting Site

Harvester ants live in heavily concentrated colonies within the western United States. They build their nests in soil that is mostly sandy, hard, and dry. The entryway to harvester ant nests has a pyramid shape or pit in the middle. This slight hill is intricately enclosed by an accumulation of small pebbles. But if you wonder if do ants die in water, it's important to note that harvester ants, like many other ant species, can indeed drown in water due to their inability to swim.

Suitable Nesting Site for a Harvester Ant

Harvester ants searching for a suitable nesting site

During the spring and summer months, many species of swarming female and winged males, including those large black ants with wings, work hard searching for a suitable nesting site.  This is most common following a rainy period when the ants begin to establish a new nest.

Climate Preference of the Harvester Ants

Sometimes with harvester ants residing in hot climates, the chance for a mound is scarce.  Instead, the workers are forced to tunnel their nests which will spread up to five miles or more in-depth.

Size of a Harvester Ant Nest

These nests may also have a diameter of one to ten miles.  There is usually no vegetation in the surrounding areas around the nest of the harvester ant.  As many as 10,000 worker ants occupy a single colony. These colonies have a survival rate ranging from  14 to 50 years.  There may be more than 80 nests within each hectare, depending on the density of each nest.

How Harvester Ants Forage for Food

Harvester ants forming a trail while they forage for food sources

When Harvester workers are foraging for a food source, these food trails can go out 60 miles or more from the entrance.  The trails ants make while foraging for resources can be as long as 60 miles and last for years and years. When thicker nests are present in an area, there is an increased chance of less vegetation.  Because of this type of ant obsession with vegetation and seeds, the areas used for grazing cattle may become severely damaged. This is when the need for an affordable ant exterminator arises to exterminate an ant or other pest infestation.

The harvester ants' activity of foraging for food sources is helpful in the sense that this is oxygenating the terrain.  Affording enhancement, which advances the germination of new vegetation growth because of the seeds they store. Their nests are customarily located in locations that are sunny and have lots of resources. Sometimes the areas where their nest is located are shadowed by new growth or increased human action. This forces the relocation of ant colonies.

The Queen and Her Colony

Every colony of Pogonomyrmex harvester ants has a designated “queen ant”  polymorphism ant. While the worker ants are heterozygous hybrids, the queens are consistently homozygous.

A closer look of the queen ant

Mating within the Colony

S. xyloni colonies of ants have several queens; she has a specific male with which to mate. This union creates a new queen ant. On the other hand, worker ants are created when she mates with a male that is S. geminala. Larvae are completely dependent on worker ants for their care. Therefore, the actions of the worker ants are a dominating force regarding caste determination.

Reproduction & Mating

After a male finishes mating with a single queen, this male will soon die. After dropping her wings, the ant will bear some eggs in the tunnel she has recently borne. There are several stages a harvester ant must go through, from larvae to pupate to finally becoming an adult. For the colony to continue, she must be allowed to lay eggs during her entire life cycle.

Reproduction and matting of ants

Caste Determination of Harvester Ants

This caste determination is usually established according to the endocrine and nutritional components. This is the eventual deciding factor used in the analysis of the ant larvae as it evolves.

Harvester Ants Species

In this country,  there are 22 species of harvester ants, and a lot of these species can be found in the desert. Many are also found near wooded areas too. Red Harvester Ants are one of these species.  If the nest of Red Harvester Ants is threatened, they will defend themselves by aggressively stinging the source.  Another common name for the Red harvester ant is the California harvester ant.

The Red Harvester Ant

This is a more recognizable ant mostly because of its large size.  The scientific name for a red harvester ant is the genus Pogonomyrmex. There are eleven species of this ant which is popular in the state of Texas. The Red Harvest ant workers measure around a quarter to half an inch long.  They are reddish to darker brown in color and have a head that is square-shaped.  The body of the Red Harvester Ant has no spine.  Ten of the 22 species of harvester ants are located in Texas.

Is it a Bite or Sting?

Although some call it an “ant-bite,” harvester ants actually sting. Additionally, in the southwestern region of the country, the ones you come across carry very arduous stings. However, it is rarely dangerous to humans unless you have an allergy to the stings of an insect, specifically an ant. If you have this allergy, ensure to take extra caution in case you interact with them.  Most harvester ants do not behave in a contentious manner around humans. However, if you pose a threat to them or their nests, they will sting to protect the colony.

An ant bite to human

The Painful Sting of the Harvester Ant

Generally, nobody wants to come upon a colony of harvester ants suddenly. Though these pests are smaller in comparison to a human, they are prepared to fight. The sting from any of these pests can create a great deal of pain. However, due to the noticeability of their nests and their large size, you will want to bypass their nest. The bite of a harvester ant may circulate through the lymph channels and may require medical attention.

The sting of a harvester ant creates discomfort and pain that can feel almost like fire, yet rarely will it cause death. Being stung several times by an ant can create a painful sting that is intense, causing a deep redness to form around the sting. If there is a lot of poison released by the ant, you may discover a sticky, watery seepage, and you may also experience chills and fever.

Foraging Trails Harvester Ants

The foraging trails of harvester ants are large and generally go two ways.  Certain species will enter or exit the nest and forage around individually, often breaking up to branch out in various areas.  The temperature underground is kept regulated because the worker ants keep their nesting area clear of vegetation.

Getting Rid of Harvester Ants

Getting Rid of Harvester Ants

Generally, when attempting to get rid of ants or pests, you should only do so with nests that are threatening pets or people.  Ensure to check out the area to determine which pesticides and treatments you should use.  You can use pesticide bait that is specifically labeled for the removal of the ant nests. Hydramethylnon is one active ingredient that is quite popular for this use. You can find it in a garden center and hardware store. It is advisable for use in areas that are non-cropped, driveways, and other landscapes where you have found some evidence of a nest.

The best time to spread pesticides is during the warmest times of the day. The reason for this is that it is when the ants are least active.  In addition, you should hire a licensed professional to apply pesticide products to rid your property of pests.

Remember, when watching an ant in action, it is imperative to understand and appreciate the role they play. Ants are especially important because they keep the soil aerated for efficient plant growth.

To get rid of a colony of ants or other insects, reach out to a licensed professional pest control company. The pest control company you call has the knowledge needed on ant control for home to help you get rid of ants and insects safely.

Finally, please remember the importance of engaging in “A.N.T. Pest Control” for your Harvester ant removal needs.

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