Several ant species are considered urban pests in Texas, the most common of which include Argentine, pavement, Pharaoh, and odorous house ants. While most ant pest species in Texas may be annoying to humans, almost none are considered dangerous. Of course, red imported fire ants are a well known exception in this regard, as these invasive pests are often responsible for inflicting medically significant, or even fatal stings to humans throughout many southern states. In fact, a recent survey of pest control professionals nationwide found that red imported fire ants are the fifth most commonly managed ant pests in the country. Another species common throughout Texas, Pogonomyrmex barbatus, is known for expanding its habitat into urban and suburban areas where it can pose a serious medical threat to residents. This species is commonly referred to as the “red harvester ant,” and workers inflict extremely painful stings that have resulted in at least two human fatalities in the US.
Red harvester ants generally inhabit rural areas, particularly grasslands located on the outskirts of cities. However, these ants often expand their habitat into residential yards in central Texas, and studies have shown that workers forage as far as 200 feet. These ants move across lawns rapidly and are easy to recognize due their unusually large size, which can exceed ½ an inch in length. Red harvester ants damage turf grass by establishing dirt mounds that range from eight to 40 cm in diameter. If a nest is found, it should be avoided, as workers will aggressively emerge from nests in order to swarm and inflict numerous stings to humans. People sitting on sidewalks in urban and suburban areas have been sent to the emergency room after red harvester ants crawled into their clothing and inflicted stings. One 70 year-old medical case report describes two deaths that were confirmed to result from red harvester ant stings in Kansas. Red harvester ants are known to nest beneath door frames, patios and other areas on residential yards where their eradication often becomes necessary.
Have you ever encountered red harvester ants?