Harvester Ants of California

California Seed Harvester Ants (Pogonomyrmex californicus) are found throughout the southwest. Harvester ants play an important ecological role as scavengers and seed dispersers but their numbers have declined due to several invasive ant species. Invasive ants compete for food and even rage war on these native ants.
California Seed Harvester Ants Excavating

California Seed Harvester ants have large heads with “beards.”

Seed Harvester Ants get their name from eating and hoarding seeds; a favorite is the California poppy which benefits from its seeds dispersed into new areas by the ants. Harvester ants are large in size, about ¼ of an inch, and reddish in color. They have large heads with “beards,” hairs on their chin, for carrying soil or sand when excavating. Seed Harvester ants, like other “red” ants, have a very painful sting that spreads venom through the lymph nodes of animals, sometimes causing reactions in ones that are allergic to their venom.
Seed Harvester ants collecting seeds

Harvester Ants Gathering Seeds from Pepper Tree

Pest Control

Nests are easily identified; usually found outside in the soil, with pebbles and hulls of seeds scattered around the entrance. Harvester ants are good about taking their garbage with them when they travel to a new location. These native ants do not invade the home but make their nests outdoors in exposed sandy soil sometimes found along paths and near playgrounds.
Seed Harvester Ant Nest

California Seed Harvester Ant Nest

California Harvester ants are only active in the daytime during warmer weather. Their nests can have as many as 10 different entrances. If stepped on, they will sting and unlike most ants, the stinger is left in the wound. And, they can bite! Hearts Pest Management technicians are able to identify, locate, and eradicate nests as necessary but if the ants are far enough away in the outdoors, just be careful of where you step and know that they are beneficial seed dispersers and scavengers.
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References Mallis, Handbook of Pest Control, Tenth Edition, Saunders College Publishing, 2011. California Academy of Sciences, Exhibit Archive – Ants: Hidden Worlds Revealed, May 8, 2005.
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