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Orange to reddish, reddish to dark brown to brownish black. 2 species bicolored with head and thorax red, coupled with gaster brownish black or pedicel red/brown with gaster brown/black.
They have rows of long hair under the chin, but should not be confused with anyone's grandmother.
Mostly west of the Mississippi, and mostly outdoors in dry soil.
Harvester ants do not invade homes and are found outdoors, preferring dry soil. It is extremely easy to identify the nest by looking for a clear zone and the low, flat, horseshoe-shaped crater around their entrance hole.
Their favorite food is the seeds of different types of grasses—convenient, since they tend to construct their mounds in the grass. They also like to snack on the bodies of insects and spiders.
Harvester ants swarm from June to October, but most commonly in August and September following rain showers. Males die soon after mating and the female will start the colony, which can survive for a long time. When swarming, they will often fly to a high spot, such as a tower on a building, before moving on. Colonies have been documented to live as many as 17 years. They generally feed on seeds and grasses, and store the seeds in the nest.
They cause damage by clearing the vegetation around the entrance hole of their mound. Depending on the species, they will clear an area ranging from 1 to 35 feet in diameter around the entrance hole. Their nest also goes 10 to 15 feet deep into the ground. Many species
will relocate the nest periodically. Clearing the vegetation keeps the shade from the mound area, which is crucial for their activity. Harvester ants prefer a ground temperature of 90 to 115 degrees F and are sluggish at 70 degrees F. They will remain in the nest if the temperature goes above 120 degrees F. These ants are very aggressive and will inflict a painful sting. The sting can kill small animals if they accidentally disturb the nest.
They seldom come inside, but lawn infestation will result in patches of cleared grass.
Treat the nest during the hottest part of the day, when the all the colony members are inside the nest. Inject an appropriately labeled residual insecticide directly into the nest and also use the fan tip to treat the area around the mound. The mound can also be treated, but not at the same time, with appropriately labeled bait materials. Regular lawn maintenance is also crucial in eliminating the favorable conditions for harvester ants.
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