Red Harvester Ant
The main food source for red harvester ants usually consists of seeds, which they hoard in great numbers, hence their name.
As with most ant species, their mating castes consist of winged alates (reproductives) that reside in the nest until weather permits them to fly away and mate. After that the male usually dies, while the now-fertilized queen returns to the ground to search for a suitable nesting site. Once she has chosen a site, she sheds her wings and begins to reproduce, creating a new colony. She produces "worker ants" for 1–20 years until her death.
Red Harvester Ants can be aggressive and have a painful sting that spreads through the lymph nodes, sometimes causing reactions, especially in animals allergic to their venom. They can also bite ferociously.
Over the years, their numbers have been declining, and this has often been attributed to competition for food with the invasive Red Imported Fire Ant and the argentine ant. Their decline has affected many native species, especially those for which the red harvester ant is a chief source of food, such as the Texas horned lizard. This is why they should not be treated with insecticides or otherwise exterminated, unless they are found to be a problem in a particular area. Red harvester ants are often mistaken for fire ants, but are not related to any fire ant species, native or introduced. This class of ants is also known to have both male and female genesis.
Red harvester ant nests are characterized by a lack of foliage and small pebbles surrounding a hole that is usually at grade. In grassland areas, like ranches, the lack of plant life makes red harvester ant colonies very easy to spot. The mounds are typically flat and broad, 0 to 100 mm (0 to 3.9 in) high, and 300 to 1,200 mm (12 to 47 in) in diameter. There have been reports of even larger denuded areas, on the order of 10 m2 (110 sq ft). Three to eight trails typically lead away from the mound, like "arms". These trails are used by ants to collect and bring food back to the mound. "Scout" ants are the first ones out of the mound every morning. They seek food, and mark their path as they return to the mound to alert the worker ants. The worker ants follow the scent trail and collect the food. Other ants, called "middens", spend their time cleaning and tending to the mound. All worker ants and middens are female.
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