Red Harvester Ants, also known as red ants or Pogonomyrmex, were once very common in the southwestern states, particularly Texas.
They are large and busy and maintain very noticeable ant hills.
There are 22 different varieties, and 10 of them reside in the state of Texas.
While they can be rather alarming, getting rid of them is not always desirable.
Instead, it is better to control them in a way that allows you to cohabitate because they are an important source of food for beneficial fauna such as Horned Toads or the Texas horned lizard, an iconic and endangered resident of the Lone Star State. (source)
In this article, we describe and discuss Red Harvester Ants, their habits, and the best ways to keep them under control.
Read on to learn more.
What If There Are Too Many Red Ant Hills In My Yard Or Pasture?
If you have a lot of red ant hills on your property, or if you want to prevent any from developing, you can discourage the ants greatly by keeping the grass mowed closely.
If there are many ant hills, disrupt them by plowing them under and then start with whatever you have planted again.
Remember to keep it mowed and occupy your space so red ants won’t want to.
If you must use a pesticide, choose the right one and use it sparingly.
For a few ant hills, scatter just a few tablespoons of a product such as Amdro Pro Fire Ant Bait very near the central opening of the hill. Don’t broadcast it.
This method can also be used carefully around animal enclosures. Target the ants you wish to eliminate and avoid the wholesale slaughter of unintended victims.
In vast areas, you may need to broadcast the product at a rate of about a pound of product per acre.
If treating a pasture or hay field, keep stock off the pasture or do not cut hay for a full week after application.
On lawns and other areas where no crops are grown, or no animal will be grazing, you can use a product such as Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer.
But, again, use the product sparingly and in a targeted manner.
Follow packaging directions carefully. The label is the law.
Red Harvester Ant Q&A
1. What Do Red Harvester Ants Look Like?
You will mostly see the worker ants, which are quite large. They range in size from a quarter-inch to a half-inch long.
They are usually dark reddish-brown. Their heads are square-shaped, and the body has no spine.
After it rains, you will see larger flying red ants. This is because these critters mate after heavy rains, so they need to be very mobile.
Following mating, the winged males die, and the winged females go forth seeking a good place to set up a nest.
Once the female locates a likely nesting place, she will shed her wings and lay eggs which will hatch, grow through several phases of development, and set up a new ant hill.
2. What Does A Red Ant Nest Look Like?
Red ant hills can be a foot high or more, so they are easy to see.
Large red ant hills are usually located in wide-open spaces. The worker ants clear all the vegetation in a large circle 3’ to 6’ feet wide.
Unlike some ants, red ants maintain separate hills and colonies with only a single entrance.
You’ll see paths radiating away from the entrance that indicates where and how the ants usually travel in search of food.
3. What Do Red Ants Eat?
These ants forage for dead insects and seeds. They find them and bring them home to store in the nest.
Red ants are outdoor ants and do not move into homes and outbuildings.
4. Do Red Ant Bites Or Stings Hurt?
A red ant bite or sting can be painful, and if it happens to be located near a lymph node, the effects can spread and be quite serious.
Luckily, red ants and their hills are big and easy to see and avoid.
Only the worker ants bite or sting, and (as demonstrated in the video above) you have to disturb them to get them to do so. They won’t seek you out to bite or sting you.
5. How Do You Treat Red Ant Bites Or Stings?
Applying ice to insect bites is always a good idea to bring down swelling and soothe itching.
If the bite or sting is excruciating or the swelling spreads, an oral antihistamine may help control the symptoms.
Making baking soda paste and water as a cool poultice may also help.
If you have a severe reaction, you should seek medical help. You may need an epinephrine injection.
If the bite or sting becomes a blister or pimple, keep it clean by washing it regularly with soap and water and keeping it covered with a band-aid.
It is better to allow it to resolve on its own than to try to drain it.
If your bite or sting has not entirely resolved within a week, you may need to consult a doctor.
Likewise, if you have trouble breathing, excessive itchiness or swelling, nausea, and stomach pains at any time, you should seek medical attention.
When you are working in an area where red ants are present or trying to control or eradicate them, be sure to protect yourself.
Here are some you need to consider:
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants.
- Tuck your pants legs into solid boots.
- Wear gloves and a head covering that protects your face and neck (e.g., a fishing hat with mask and neck drape).
- Wear an insect repellent containing picaridin or DEET.