The Maricopa Harvester Ant
Maricopa harvester ants are commonly found in most parts of Arizona, including Phoenix. It is perhaps most recognized as holding the record for having the most venomous sting of all insects. The ant is about three centimeters long, and it spends its entire life in the desert areas. Maricopa harvester ants have two pairs of membranous wings, yet they will not have them for the greater part of their life. They build gigantic nests that can measure more than 30 feet in diameter and reach heights of six feet. However, these massive nests are only common if natural forces do not destroy them, or if the nest is not invaded by other ant species.
Maricopa harvester ants range in color from bright red to dark brown. They range in size from one centimeter to three centimeters, depending on their age. Like most insects, they have three body segments; the head, the abdomen, and the thorax. While most of the ants people see are wingless, Maricopa harvester ants due in fact possess wings. The male ants will lose their wings and die after they mate, while the females will just lose their wings. A feature that also separates this species of ant from others is that they possess a stinger that is similar to that of a bee. They use their stingers as a defense against invading creatures, and to capture their prey.
Like all other harvester ants, the Maricopa harvester ant is a forager. They are sent from their nests to gather seeds and dead insects and bring them back to their nest to share with the colony. Maricopa harvester ants will forage up to 33 feet away from the nest in order to make sure that they bring back enough food for the entire colony.
Maricopa harvester ants contain the most toxic venom of all insects. The venom is a mixture of amino acids, peptides, and proteins. The ant injects its venom after it attaches to their victim by clinging on to them with their pinchers. After it has attached, it will position itself so its stinger is facing towards the victim. The ant will then sting as many times as it can before it is dislodged or killed.
The venom from the Maricopa harvester ant is twelve times more powerful than that of a honeybee. A four and a half pound rat could be killed by as few as twelve stings, and a 150 lb human could be killed by about 350 stings. To get the same mortality rate from a bee, a human would have to be stung well over 10,000 times, without an allergic reaction taking place. While this may seem like a high number of stings it is very low compared to the amount of stings from other insects. The most dangerous aspect of an attack is when the first ant stings it’s victim it will release pheromones that signal other members of the colony to come and attack as well.
As Phoenix residents, we are often more focused on keeping the deadly Arizona Bark Scorpions out of our homes. The truth is that Maricopa harvester ants can be just as deadly as scorpions if left untreated. If you are having ant problems of any kind, it’s pest that you contact a Phoenix pest control professional to help eliminate the ants before they find you or your family.
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