Bug Blog

A Harvester Ant Sting Is More Painful Than A Fire Ant Sting, And Arizona Residents May Find Them Hard To Avoid During The Hottest Summer Days

It is not uncommon for homes in Arizona to become infested with ants. In many infestation cases, the ant invaders are harmless, but several species that can inflict extremely painful bites are abundant in southern Arizona. Luckily, the red-imported fire ant was eradicated from Arizona, but another group of ants in the state can inflict stings that are even more painful than fire ant stings. These ants are commonly known as harvester ants, and they are most abundant in desert regions, making them a threat to residents all over Arizona, but particular residents in the southern half of the state.azpest2018-5

Harvester ants will not damage your home’s timber frame like carpenter ants will; instead, these ants will come after the vegetation within your yard. Harvester ants feed on a variety of garden and ornamental landscaping plants, and they have been found invading homes in order to feed on houseplants. There is a very good chance that you have seen harvester ants before, as nearly every species that exists in the US can be found within southern Arizona. Of the 22 harvester ant species inhabiting Arizona, the species that are found most often around homes in the state include the California harvester ant, the red harvester ant and the western harvester ant. Most species nest within secluded desert locations, but nests can be found in residential areas as well.

Harvester ants are often spotted with large-sized bits of plant matter in their jaws as they march back to their nests. If a nest is found, they should not be approached, especially if you prefer to wear sandals, as the ants will not hesitate to sting humans. According to the Schmidt Pain Index, a reference showing the relative pain of arthropod bites and stings, harvester ant stings inflict a greater degree of pain than red-imported fire ant stings. The entomologist who created the index, Justin O. Schmidt, claims that a harvester ant sting feels like someone drilling into an ingrown toenail for a day or two. In fact, harvester ants produce the most toxic form of venom that has yet been found among insects. The ants are reddish in color and they prefer intense heat, making them a common sight in Arizona during the height of the summer season.

Have you ever sustained a bite or sting from an ant species?