Harvester ant 1

Harvester ant

Name: Pogonomyrmex spp.

Alias: Harvester ant, red ant, or occasionally it is identified incorrectly as “fire ant.” Harvester ants are a native to the Western United States. They are usually noticed first from their large ant hill colonies that are made from gathering small pieces of gravel and piling them together. Upon closer inspection large red ants can be seen entering and exiting the mound. The ants are typically larger than sugar ants, and they have a large, square head that has intimidating mandibles that it can use to cause pain to any observer brave enough to hold one. They can also sting in addition to bite. They are not really aggressive, just prepared for intruders.

Crimes: If they see a human or animal as a threat they can cause a sting and bite that issue significant pain. They will harvest any plant growing within a 3-foot radius of their colony, and colony mounds can be found within 20 feet of each other. This can reduce yield off of pastures reserved for livestock.

Redeeming qualities: While they are annoying, they are native. They are considered a valuable part of the ecosystem in rangeland settings where they contribute to the soil ecology.

Sentence: In native rangeland settings, tolerance is the best option because thresholds usually will not support very many colonies close together. In non-rangeland settings, they can be killed with any permethrin-based insecticides. When colonies are small, a boiling pot of water is enough to wipe out the colony. Be sure to read and follow all insecticide labels before use.

For more information on dangerous and beneficial bugs, call UI Extension educator Joseph Sagers at 208-745-6685 or email jsagers@uidaho.edu.