Western Harvester Ant


Actual Size: 4.5 to 13 mm

Characteristics: Large, reddish-brown.


  • Also known as “red ants” or “bearded ants.
  • Known for their seed collecting and painful stings.
  • Do not invade homes, but are occasional pests on lawns and playgrounds.

Western Harvester Ant Overview

Western Harvester ants, also known as “red ants,” are common in the arid grasslands and deserts of the United States. The western harvester ant is found at higher altitudes in the western states as far north as Montana and North Dakota. These ants are famous for their seed collecting and painful stings. They have one queen per colony, and queens of some species are estimated to live 17 years.

Western Harvester Ant Habitats

The western harvester ant has the most complex nest of all 60 species of harvesters, building mounds that can be 3 feet high, 16 feet in diameter, 20 feet deep, and contain as many as 10,000 ants. The large mounds can interfere with mowing and harvesting equipment. The western harvester ant can strip away as much as 20% of the vegetation in a pasture.

Western Harvester Ant Behaviors, Threats or Dangers

Although western harvester ants do not invade homes, they are occasional pests on lawns and playgrounds, where people may get stung by them. Their sting is not considered as aggressive as fire ants, however, a harvester ant sting can last longer than other stinging ants, and those that are sensitive may have serious allergic reactions. Anaphylactic reactions have been reported from a harvester ant sting. As pests, their most significant impact is in agriculture where they sometimes cause damage to crops, rangelands, and livestock.

Western Harvester Ant Prevention

Harvester ant nests are easy to locate by looking for bare soil areas. Mounds should be treated during the hottest part of the day or when the ants are least active outside of the nest. Mounds can be successfully treated by using boiling water, baking soda, or diatomaceous earth, poured directly into the nest. However, if a harvester ant infestation is suspected, it is best to contact a licensed harvester ant control professional.