Even Texas’s smallest insects can cause a painful bite! Harvester ants are an amazing insect that, within a community of thousands, clear away plants to build mounds, dig intricate underground tunnels, and forage for seeds.
These ants are on the larger size and red. To create their mounds, they first clear a three to six feet wide opening to their underground home, covering the clearing in a circular layer of small pebbles. The ants’ underground den can be up to 15 feet deep and house up to 12,000 ants! Within the burrow, there are several different kinds of chambers called granaries. The granaries can be used as nurseries for ant eggs, areas to place waste, or storage to stash their harvest.
Theories suggest that clearing such a large area may allow for access to sunshine, yielding stable temperatures within tunnels, waterproofing, and insulation to keep the eggs warm. It may also prevent plants from taking root and gives ants clearance to see if a predator is approaching. For example, the Texas horned lizards’ diet consists exclusively of harvester ants and it has adapted immunity to the ants’ venom.
Female worker-ants forage for food during the day from spring until fall. The ants are dormant in the winter. Native grass seeds are the main staple in their diet. Every ant within the mound has a job and they all work together to keep each other safe, fed, and healthy!
The Harvester ant is a wonderful example of how a community works together to keep everyone alive and well. Think about the people in your community, whether they live on your street, in your neighborhood, or in your city, that help to keep the community running, safe, and healthy. Perhaps this is the grocer, the mail-person, the trash pick-up people, or your teachers! Select someone from your community that you would like to draw or paint a portrait of. When you are done with your portrait, think about how you might share it with this person!