Common Name: Harvester Ant
Latin Name: Pogonomyrmex
Common Family Name: Ants
Latin Family Name: Formicidae
Other Names: Harvesting ant, agricultural ant
Origin: Numerous species of these ants are native to North America, particularly in the drier, warmer regions of the United States and south into Mexico. There are more than two dozen species known, with only a single species found east of the Mississippi River.
Biology: Harvester ants gather seeds and vegetation for their food, and are very unlikely to enter structures. However, they may be common in urban areas, and with their ability to sting and their large size they may become a problem. In addition, their activities can have a serious effect on agricultural crops or ornamental plantings. The Black harvester ants (Veromessor) apparently do not sting, having the stinger reduced in size. Nest openings are identified by the large, circular, flat area around them, created by the workers as they clear debris and soil from the underground chambers. This area averages 12 feet in diameter, and distinct paths lead from it to over 200 feet away for foraging. Nests may go as deep as 15 feet, with numerous chambers, and the population of workers may exceed 12,000. Swarming by reproductives occurs throughout the summer months.
Identification: The Harvester Ants are double-node ants that may be as long as 10 mm. Identifying characteristics are a single pair of spines at the back of the thorax, large jaws, and a fringe or “beard” of long hairs below the head on each side. The species in the genus Pogonomyrmex are primarily reddish in color, while those in the genus Veromessor are black.
Characteristics Important in Control: Harvester ants are not known to forage or nest within structures, although their nests may be under slabs or porches around the exterior, and commonly in lawns and other urban areas. Treatment directly into the nest with a residual dust insecticide may be effective. They also appear to take granular baits readily, particularly those based on grain or cob grit, and these can be placed near nest entrances.