Harvester Ant: Basic Information, Why They Bite & 2 Best Ways to Control Them

Harvester ant isolated on the white.

Nature has so many fascinating creatures for us to observe. These creatures differ in shapes, sizes, and growth. These creatures can have multiple functions in their respective habitats. They can be either beneficial or dangerous. Perhaps even both! One can find these marvelous creations on land, in water and high up in the air. Among these astounding zoological beings, the harvester ants are not less fascinating. They are little crawlies staying under the ground, but still, they have an amazing world of facts to explore. From their lifestyle to their eating habits to the painful bites, everything compels the human nature to learn about them.

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Basic information about harvester ants

Harvester ants are one of the species of ants that are abundantly found all over the world. They are considered as a helpful creature in protecting, securing and dispersing the seeds. They are very beneficial in the desert regions where they keep the seeds safe in their nests and also provide essential nutrients to the desert land. Thus, this species becomes a vital source of the survival of the desert plants.

1. Appearance and size

Pogonomyrmex occidentalis is also known as the western harvester ant. These ants are abundantly found in the high elevations of the region of the west. They are not much different in appearance from the other ants. They are either red or dark brown in color. The body is divided into three distinct parts. These tiny creatures are not much large. The harvester ants live in deep holes under the ground which are known as galleries. The apparently harmless red creatures can cause severe skin allergies with their bites. While dwelling in the ground, they can be aggressive if their nest, colony or food stock is in danger.

2. Diet and behavior

The harvester ants are classified into three different species. Each of these has different habits, feeding behavior, and nesting habits. Unlike usual ants, they prefer staying outside in the yards and gardens. They are by nature very aggressive and can cause a painful. The harvester ants are considered as agricultural pests. These little creatures usually feed on seeds that come from various plants. They also feed on insects. The harvest ants are great at searching and then traveling to their food source. As they move towards the food source, they leave behind a characteristic smell.

3. Reproduction and life cycle

In the case of harvester ants, there is one queen per colony. It is the queen ant that lays the eggs. Once the eggs are laid in the hibernation seasons, they hatch in the summers. The new ones emerge as the winged creatures that are known as a swarmer or alates. The life of the male ants ends after the mating is complete.

4. Habit and habitat

You can find the harvester ants or the Pogonomyrmex in the South Western part of the American continent. They are also reported to be seen in many areas of Mexico also. Their favorite habitat is the desert. Usually, they prefer open areas. They dig galleries into the dry lands that go at a depth of 4.5 meters.

Harvester ant bite

Harvester ants can be dangerous to the human health. They often bite the people as they come across them and feel threatened. They pass a venomous solution through their bites that might not claim the lives but can transmit skin allergies. These bites can be cured instantly with several domestic remedies. In more severe cases a medical assistance can be sought.

1. Why they bite people

The harvester ants are very aggressive. They get irritated when they find some human existence around them. If any human presence threatens their nest and the food they can bite them aggressively causing mild to very severe bites.

2. Signs and symptoms

Once the ant bites and injects the venom into the skin, the initial reactions become evident immediately.  After the harvester ants bite a human subject, there are chances that they might attack again and again. There is a possibility of serious consequences of the ant bite which cannot be dealt with easily at home, and as an aftermath, the subject has to be taken for proper medical assistance. The early signs of inconvenience start with pain. The pain of the bite ranges from minor to most intense pain. The sting can cause redness and swelling of the affected skin area. The impact of the sting varies from the game and the immunity of the subject. In more severe cases when the bite is not taken care of at the early stage anaphylaxis is also reported. It is a complex allergic reaction that is characterized by continuous sneezing attacks, nausea, wheezing, diarrhea, breathing problems and dizziness.  In later hours the subject can report of itching, loss of blood pressure swelled eyes and ultimately fainting spells.

3. Treatments

The subject stung by the harvester ant must immediately wash the affected area thoroughly with the help of warm and soapy water. Remove the stinger from the skin and apply a thick layer of any anti-bite cream. The calamine lotion can also be helpful in fighting back the itch and the rash on the skin. To fight back the allergy symptoms, antihistamine pills can be taken. If these treatments do not work, it is better to seek medical advice.

How to get rid of harvester ants

Harvester ants are very dangerous and can cause various problems. There are many ways to control these ants. There are two ways to control them or get rid of them. These two methods are given below.

1. DIY solutions to get rid of them

This is a non-chemical mean to control the harvester ants. Many people who have pets and babies prefer to use this method instead of using chemicals. This process is not very expensive.

  • Boiling water

Pour 2-3 gallons of boiling water on harvester ant mound. The most effective method to kill them is after a rain season when the interior tunnels are muddy and kill 60% of the harvester ants.

  • Granular bait

If you are unable to kill them or fail to beat these harvester ants, then try feeding these harvester ants with the bait. Place poisonous granular bait for the harvester ants. The baits lure the ants, and they take them into their galleries.

2. Green solutions to get rid of them

If you are interested in an environment-friendly way to control these pests, then these green remedial methods are the best.

  • Flower powder

Since flower powder is poisonous or harmful to the harvester ants, therefore, it can be used to kill or get rid of them.

  • Baking soda

To prevent harvester ants touching the vegetation in your yard sprinkle baking powder around the vegetation in your yard.

  • Flour mixed with baby powder

Another practical, DIY method to get rid of harvester ants is to mix some quantity of baby powder with flour. Then spread the mixture around the nesting.

  • Dehydrate with diatomaceous earth or grits

Substance comprised of crushed marine animals’ shells is called diatomaceous earth. When it is taken to the nest of the harvester ants, the particle causes dehydration within 24 hours. The lack of water contents can help check the growth of ant colonies.

Harvester ants control

If the harvester ants are not controlled well in time, they can be a real menace for the harvester. Thus, it is essential to get rid of them as soon as possible. There are some chemical and non-chemical ways to get rid of these small nuisance makers. The early the effort the better will be the results. Once their presence is curbed at an early stage, it becomes easier to fight back the expected adverse implications. Some practical measures to ensure the harvest ant control are as follows:

1. Nest toxicants

The toxicants are spread around the nesting area. This helps get rid of the harvester ants in large populations. It is one hard blow to a large number of ants. The toxicants come in both dry and liquid option.

2. Poisoned baits

Poisonous meal baits can turn out to be an effective remedy against the ants. The baits attract the ants, and they take it back to their nests as a treat, but this at the end turns out to be an easy way to get rid of the nuisance creators.

Conclusion

These little ants seem tiny and harmless but can be a negative force against the agricultural lands. The harvesters need to kill the menace before it spreads rapidly. The harvester ants can be a blessing in disguise. On the one hand they help in the spreading of seeds, but on the contrary, they can be equally disastrous for the harvesters by damaging the seeds and the crops. The first appearance of an ant is that of a dormant creepy crawler that can hardly harm anyone. The truth is but otherwise. They are aggressive enough when it comes to safeguarding their colonies. Before their nuisance spreads quickly, it is important to get rid of them through the available methods.

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