Harvester Ants Scientific Name: Pogonomyrmex barbatus
Everyone hopes for a good harvest, but no one really wants harvester ants around. Commonly known as “red ants,” harvester ants are reddish to dark brown in color and create large mounds at the entrance of their nests. Their nests are located outside around door steps, paths, yards, and especially in open fields. Harvester ants feed on seeds and vegetation, often resulting in desolate surroundings up to 20 feet away from the nest. Harvester ants are also quite aggressive and will bite, hang on, and inflict a painful, venomous sting when disturbed. Some species will leave the stinger in the wound, causing symptoms to last for several days. One harvester ant bite can be the equivalent of 12 bee stings!
If affected by a harvester ant sting, wash the area with warm, soapy water. Pull out the stinger if detached in the skin, and apply calamine lotion or after-bite cream to soothe the burning and reduce itching. You can take an antihistamine pill to lessen allergic reactions and an ibuprofen pill to lessen pain. Some people experience a severe allergic reaction; if this is the case, see a doctor.
Harvester Ant Control
If harvester ants are becoming a nuisance. A professional pest control agent will employ one or more of the following methods.
Nest toxicants: Make it rain on their parade. The most effective of all treatments involves dousing the nest and surrounding area directly with toxicants. This is best when the nest is located outside (which is exactly where harvester ants build their nests!).
Poisoned baits: Sponsor a feast for your unwanted guests. This treatment entails putting out toxic bait that the Harvester ants readily carry back to their humble abode for their—unbeknownst to them—last meal.
Harvester Ant DIY
To get rid of harvester ants, try one of the following methods. Be aware that harvester ants will readily sting, so be cautious when approaching the nest.
Boiling water: Slowly pour at least two to three gallons of boiling water on top of the harvester ant mound. This is most effective after rain when the interior tunnels are muddy and hard to navigate. The boiling water method can kill up to 60% of the colony. Add dish soap or 1 cup of salt to kill any stragglers. (However, keep in mind that handling boiling water is dangerous, and boiling water can kill vegetation and make soil less fertile).
If you can’t beat ’em, feed ’em: Put out a granular bait for the ants to carry home.
Harvester Ant Green Solutions
Harvester ants actually do quite a bit of good for the environment and turn over as much soil as earthworms, and they do not usually enter homes. However, if you’re interested in an environmentally-friendly way to rid yourself of harvester ants, consider the following green solutions.
Flower powder! Because it is poisonous to Harvester ants, baking soda sprinkled around the base of plants will prevent harvester ants from touching the treated vegetation in your yard. You can also use flour mixed with baby powder.
Dehydrate with diatomaceous earth or grits: Diatomaceous Earth is a substance comprised of crushed marine animal shells; when carried to the nest of Harvester ants, the particles cause dehydration within 24 hours. Instant rice or cream-of-wheat will do the same thing.