Harvester Ants

Harvester Ant:  Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name

Pogonomyrmex spp.


The Western harvester ant is found in the west at high elevations. This is a red colored ant that can be 6.5 to 10 mm long. Galleries have been found to go over 600 cm deep.

Harvester ant picture

Behavior, Diet & Habits

The three 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 many other ants that infest indoor structures, all species of harvester 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 deliver a painful sting. Sometimes, the stings of harvester ants can cause allergic reactions, especially to those sensitive to their venom. Aside from their powerful stings, harvester ants also bite viciously.

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 travel to their food sources, leaving a distinct scent throughout their paths.


Colonies usually contain a single queen who is responsible for producing the eggs. Winged reproductives, also called swarmer or alates, are produced in the summer. Males die soon after mating with the females, who go on to found new colonies.

Signs of a Harvest Ant Infestation

Aside from the ants themselves, the large mounds, almost 53 inches across in some cases, and denuded vegetation near to the nest are the most visible signs of harvester ant activity.

Are Harvester Ants poisonous?

The answer to this question is YES, harvester ants are poisonous. In general, the harvester ants in the genus Pogonomyrmex are aggressive biters that inject potent and painful venom with their stingers. Like most stinging insects, their level of aggression and venom potency differs between species within the genus. For example, the Florida harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex badius, is not considered an aggressive ant, but its venomous sting is very painful.

More Information

Western Harvester Ants

Black Harvester Ants

Texas Red Harvester Ants

Red Harvester Ant Mating Swarms