Harvester Ant Pogonomyrmex
Harvester ants range from 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch in length.
The color varies from red to reddish brown to black, depending on the
Harvester ants are farmers in the sense that they gather seeds as their
primary food source. They generally clear large circular areas completely free of any vegetation around the nest
entrance hole. A few species are known to clear an area up to 30 feet or more in diameter. Other species may
only clear a few feet. Some species construct mounds, while others carry the excavated soil away from the nest
and discard it. These ants become pests only when they invade a lawn from a neighboring field. These ants
aggressively defend their nests and will bite vigorously; some species will sting.
Several dozen species of harvester ants occur in the United States, but
most are desert dwellers and do not come into contact with humans very often. Only one species is found east of
the Mississippi River in Florida; the remaining species are found in the Southwest. Nests occur in the soil with
a single entrance hole.
Harvester ants are controlled through the use of ant baits. In some cases,
however, getting the ants in a particular colony to take the bait may require persistence and possibly the use
of different baits.
The common species of harvester ants – the Red, Western, and California
harvester ants each have unique behaviors, castes and tasks, feeding, nesting patterns and defense mechanisms.
The harvester ant behavior differs between each species, seen through their feeding and nesting habits. In
addition, unlike other ants that infest indoor structures, all species of harvest ants prefer not to invade
houses and buildings, but will establish their nests around gardens or yards, often destroying vegetation.The
red harvester ants can be aggressive. They give out a painful sting. Sometimes, the stings of red harvest ants
can cause allergic reactions, especially to those sensitive to their venom. Aside from their powerful stings,
the red harvester ant also bites viciously. However, due to the competition for food with the ferocious red fire
ants, the population of red harvester ants appears to be declining.This is an important agricultural pest in
many areas. The feeding habits of red harvester ants can be seen as they leave their nests and crawl to their
food sources, leaving a distinct scent throughout their paths. Once the scent paths stop, the red harvester ants
go their own ways and forage for food.
The Western harvester ant is found in the west at high elevations. This is a red colored ant that can be
almost one half an inch long. This ant can cause damage to highways by encouraging erosion under roads.
Galleries have been found to go over 9 feet deep.
Leafcutter ants also have been considered harvester ants. They exhibit high degrees of polymorphism with
castes including the minims, mediae, minors and majors. They are divided based on their size to perform different
tasks. For instance, the majors are considered the leafcutter ant soldiers, while the mediae are known as the
foragers of food. The minims tend their fungus gardens, while the minors guard the nest from predators. Leafcutter
ants, particularly the majors, are strong enough to cut through leather.
Another group of harvester ants are the Messor harvester ants which have over 100 different species. Their
colonies contain only one queen, but with hundreds of workers. The Messor harvester ants are known as sophisticated
architects because of their intricately designed nests, wherein they store seeds during dry weather to avoid germs.
Messor ants can easily cut through large seeds and carry them back to their nests. However, these harvester ants
exhibit slow movement.
Pheidole harvester ants have three kinds of members within their colonies – the minor workers, soldiers or major
workers and the queen. The major workers are known for their large heads that may give them a fierce appearance.
However, these harvester ants are usually shy and often flee at signs of danger.