Harvester Ant: Facts, Identification & Control
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.