Harvester Ant

Category:

Actual Size: 4.5 to 13 mm

Characteristics: Large, board blocky head; red or reddish to brownish black.

Habits:

  • Nests constructed in deserts and sandy soils.
  • Does not invade homes, but does invade lawns and playgrounds.
  • Also known as the “bearded ant”, for the fringe of hairs on underside of head.

Overview

Harvester ants damage lawns and vegetation and are common in the arid grasslands and deserts of the western U.S. The Florida harvester ant, is the only eastern species and is found from Louisiana to North Carolina. The red harvester ant is reddish-brown to red in color and found from Kansas through Texas and into Arizona. The western harvester ant is reddish-brown and found in the higher altitudes in the western states as far north as Montana and North Dakota. Lastly, the California harvester ant is reddish brown, and one of the most common ants in the Colorado and Mojave deserts.

Harvester Ant Habitats

Harvester ants, also known as “red ants,” are famous for their seed collecting and painful stings. They have one queen per colony and queens of some species are estimated to live 17 years. The California harvester ant nests in exposed sandy soil. The nest may have as many as 10 entrances. The red harvester ant creates large circular nest clearings, stripping vegetation and contributing to soil erosion. The western harvester ant has the most complex nest of all 60 species, building mounds that can be three feet high, 16 feet in diameter and containing as many as 10,000 ants. Swarming typically takes place during the summer, especially in the afternoon after a rain event.

Harvester Ant Behaviors, Threats or Dangers

Although, they do not invade homes, harvester ants are occasional pests on lawns and playgrounds, where people may get stung by them. The California harvester ant is famous for its sting. Unlike most ants, it leaves its stinger in the wound. According to experts, these ants will readily attack humans and smaller animals. Anaphylactic reactions have been reported from harvester ant stings. As pests, their greatest impact is in agriculture where they sometimes cause damage to crops, rangelands and livestock.

Harvester Ant Prevention

Harvester ants pose a significant threat to humans and pets due to their aggressive nature, painful stings and ability to damage the appearance of lawns and gardens. If you suspect a harvester ant infestation on your property, it is best to contact a licensed pest management professional for removal.