Harvester Ant

Common Name: Harvester Ant

Scientific Name: Pogonomyrmex badius (Latreille, 1802)

Authors: Shawn Carey, Gloria J Stewart, Joshua M Hogan,

Sandor Kelly, Ryan D Ridenbaugh

 

Introduction

The Florida Harvester Ant, Pogonomyrmex badius (Latreille, 1802), relies on gathering seeds for sustenance within their nests. The nests are easily identifiable by a large cleared area, often with a crescent-shaped refuse pile and conspicuous individuals near the entrance. P. badius is of the largest species of ants in its range and has a strict worker caste (Tschinkel 2017).

QUEEN

 

Distribution                                 

Although there are many species of harvester ants in the United States, Pogonomyrmex badius is the only species of the genus Pogonomyrmex found east of the Mississippi River. P. badius is primarily found in Florida but ranges as far north as North Carolina and west to Louisiana.

 

Description

WORKER

Queen and worker with continuous rust-red color with short white hairs all over body. Overly-large head compared to its body with standard antennae split into 12 segments. Thorax split into multiple sections that seem to aid in the flexibility of its locomotion. Standard, skinny petiole separated into two parts. Queen with large, veiny wings and beady black eyes. Males differentiate in color from both the worker and the queen in that they have a black head and thorax.

 

Biology

MALE

Pogonomyrmex badius is a eusocial species that relies on different castes to delegate nest responsibilities. They vary in size depending on the function they perform and are the only species of Pogonomyrmex to be polymorphic. Division of labor is organized both by worker age (age polyethism), and nest space. For age polyethism, young workers handle brood care, moving to more general nest tasks as they age (Tschinkel 2017). Entering old age, the ants become outer nest foragers. Workers are also segregated vertically in their nests. The young workers are found in the lower regions of the nest brood working, whereas the older workers/foragers are only found within the top 15cm of the nest (Tschinkel and Hanley 2017). P. badius have evolved to not die due to senescence. Since their oldest are the foragers and defenders, mortality is likely due to the many dangers faced outside of the nest. This in-turn spares the younger, more specialized workers needed for spawning the next generation.

 

Economic importance/management

Pogonomyrmex badius is not overtly aggressive in nature, and rarely seeps into the homes of people. Seeing as they gather their primary food source from seeds of native trees and other foliage, they are not pests to farms or homes. The sting of the Florida Harvester Ant is one of the more painful and longer lasting stings; however, they won’t sting unless they are forced to.

 

References

  • Bolton B. (1994) Identification guide to the ant genera of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 222 pp. (page 106, Pogonomyrmex senior synonym of Ephebomyrmex and Forelomyrmex (and the junior homonym Janetia Forel).) [Accessed 20 July 2018]
  • Bolton B. (1995b) A new general catalogue of the ants of the world. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 504 pp. (page 28, Pogonomyrmex senior synonym of Ephebomyrmex, Forelomyrmex (and the junior homonym Janetia Forel): ) [Accessed 20 July 2018]
  • Smith EH, Whitman RC. (1992) Field Guide to Structural Pests. National Pest Management Association, Dunn Loring, VA. [Accessed 20 July 2018]
  • Tschinkel WR, Hanley N. (2017) Vertical organization of the division of labor within nests of the Florida harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex badius. PLoS ONE 12(11): e0188630. https://doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pone.0188630. [Accessed 20 July 2018]
  • Tschinkel WR. (2017) Lifespan, age, size-specific mortality and dispersion of colonies of the Florida Harvester Ant, Pogonomyrmex badius. Insect. Soc. (2017) 64:285-296. DOI 10.1007/s00040-017-0544-0. [Accessed 20 July 2018]