Harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex species) may not sound as scary as their distant relatives, fire ants, but these gals can still pack a punch! These hard working insects are common in outdoor areas across the US, with the exception of the Northeast. Although they prefer not to get confrontational, they will protect their nests with a shallow (but painful) sting, if necessary. As if that wasn’t enough, harvester ants are also known for clearing all vegetation within several feet of their nests, which can lead to large - and unsightly - bare areas in the lawn.
Sunday FunFact: Much like honey bees (who are in the same order as ants) harvester ant workers are exclusively female!
There are many different species of harvester ants, but most are orange to red or brownish-black. Workers are usually ¼ – ½” long and have 2 nodes (bumps between the second and third body sections). On most species, the second body section has a pair of spines on the top, and many have long ‘beards’ on their heads.
Harvester ants stay outdoors (thank goodness!). They create large nests that can extend several feet into the soil. Mounds, which can be found throughout the lawn or landscape, are characteristically broad, flat, and very large – up to several feet wide! The mounds often have pebbles that have been expelled from the nest, and the vegetation surrounding the mound is usually stripped bare, which is a serious bummer for your lawn. Worker ants will defend the mound with painful stings, so tread carefully!
Harvester ants are active above 60°F. Unfortunately for our friends in warm climates, that means harvester ants can be active all year long. Mating swarms usually occur after heavy summer rains, and each queen can live up to 15 or more years!
Unfortunately, there are no good methods to prevent harvester ants, and cultural practices aren’t enough to get rid of them if they do show up. Monitoring and early action with baits are the best defense against extensive lawn damage (not to mention, you know, the stings).
Here’s where Sunday’s Fire Ant Fighter can help!