4954 N. Shamrock Place, Tucson, AZ 85705

Red Harvester Ant

Pogonomyrmex barbatus

Red Harvester Ant

Physical Features

There are 22 species of harvester ants in the United States. These insects have six legs, three body parts, and antenna, square-shaped heads, no spines on the body, red to dark brown, chewing mouthparts, and up to 1/2 inch long. They have powerful mandibles capable of cutting and carrying grass and small stems to the nest.


  • Diet: Grass seeds, insects, and spiders
  • Activity: During the day
  • Preferred Climate: Temperate climate; dry, arid environments
  • Defense: Cover nest opening to keep intruders out and painful sting
  • Cautions: Painful sting if disturbed
  • Home Invasion: Mounds may be seen in the ground. The mound of red harvester ants will have vegetation cleared from 3 to 20 feet around the mound center. Pathway(s) of cleared vegetation from the mound may go as far as 200 feet.

Helpful Hints

  • Keep a well-maintained landscape.
  • Reduce moisture sources including leaks.
  • Recommend regular pest control service plan.

Interesting Facts

In 2003, harvester ants became the first ants to travel from earth to space on the NASA space shuttle. Scientists were studying the effects of space flight and weightlessness on the tunneling behavior during a 16-day flight.


They can be aggressive and deliver a painful sting, sometimes causing allergic reactions.

Nesting Sites

Nests are constructed consisting of many tunnels where worker ants store seeds, which are the main food source. This ant causes considerable damage to grass and cropland when it constructs nests for its huge colonies.