Termites vs. Harvester Ants: Learn the Difference Between These Two Insect Species


Red-colored and small in size, the harvester ant can easily create its nest in your backyard. But is that too bad? Knowing a bit more about the insect and the relationship that it has with some common pests like termites, will help you learn the answer.

The harvester ant isn’t recognized as a massive pest and, in some instances, it can even be beneficial. However, it’s just one of the many ant species out there. While some ants are known for their aggressive behavior, harvesters aren’t one of them. Instead, they tend to forage for food and, though they may bite, it isn’t a common behavior.

Termites vs. Harvester Ants
Termite & Harvester Ant side-by-side comparison

Table of Contents

  1. Harvester Ants: A Brief Overview
    1. The Queen
  2. Some Information about Termites
  3. Termites vs. Harvester Ants
  4. How Harvester Ants Can Be Beneficial for Dealing with Termites
  5. Termites vs Ants

Harvester Ants: A Brief Overview

So, there are three common types of harvester ants – red, California and western. Each one of these species is recognized for its highly specific behavior. One of the most common species in the US is the western harvester ant.

Red harvester ants are the most aggressive of the three species. These are the ants that have been known to sting humans and the sting can be particularly painful. Further, Western harvester ants inhabit mountain ranges. They feed on insects and seeds. The fact that the ants kill other insect varieties makes them particularly important for natural pest control.

Red Harvester Ant Queen

Red Harvester Ant Queen

The Queen

A harvester ant colony consists of a single queen and about 10,000 workers. Further, the queen is larger in size, it can live for up to 30 years, and it’s responsible for the reproduction and the growth of the entire ant colony.

Harvester ants form large nests that look like big mounds. These can reach as large as 53 inches across. The depth of the nest can exceed 600 centimeters (236 inches).

These ants are particularly common during the summer, regardless of the specific species. They don’t enter houses often but can be drawn to a property when they can’t find an alternative source of food. Further, this is the only situation in which pest control is going to be needed. Otherwise, harvester ants don’t pose a serious danger or a nuisance.

Some Information about Termites

While ants are recognized as hard workers and praised for the complexity of their nests, termites are seen purely as pests. Due to the fact that these little insects consume cellulose, they can cause serious structural damage to houses that feature wooden construction or other wooden elements.

There are many different kinds of termites, all of them being equally damaging. A few of the most common species include dampwood, drywood, subterranean, conehead and desert termites. The name of the species gives us a little bit more information about its habitat and its dietary preferences when it comes to choosing a source of cellulose.


Subterranean Termites

Termites rank among the most damaging pests in the U.S. Termites and similar pests cost property and crop losses of approximately 30 billion dollars every single year. A homeowner who deals with a termite infestation will be forced to spend an average of $3,000 on repairs.

The actual amount of damage that a termite colony can cause depends entirely on the amount of time that the infestation remains undetected. The type of termite and the size of the colony will also be determining the speed at which wood is going to be destroyed.

Termites vs. Harvester Ants

Some homeowners may have difficulties determining whether they’re dealing with harvester ants or termites. This is particularly true for the winged members of each species. There are a couple of important differences that can be used to make the distinction.

Termites are recognized for their straight antennae and two pairs of wings that have the same size. Flying harvester ants have curved antennae and front wings that are longer than the back ones. Also, ants are narrow at the waist, which isn’t true for the termites.

If you’re incapable of telling the difference, call a pest control company. The sooner you identify the type of pest you’re dealing with and take measures against it, the more limited the property damage is going to be.

How Harvester Ants Can Be Beneficial for Dealing with Termites

As already mentioned, harvester ants are known for collecting seeds and fruit pieces. These are brought inside the nest and stored for consumption later on. This is the primary source of food for these ants. While they do collect seeds, the quantity is small enough not to affect crop production. This is one of the main reasons why most farmers don’t really have a problem with having harvester ant nests on their property.

Whenever the quantities of seeds and fruits decrease, harvester ants will look for an alternative source of food. This is when they’ll usually begin attacking termites. Ants are recognized as one of the primary termite predators. They play an important role on controlling the size of termite colonies or destroying them altogether.

Termites vs Ants

If termites are available in the area, harvester ants (and other ant species) will prey on them. In such instances, the termites that the ants have killed could represent approximately 50 percent of the forage that the colony would use as a food source.

Thus, having a harvester ant colony in your backyard may be a good thing. Keep in mind, however, that the ability of the ants to destroy termite colonies will depend entirely on the size of both colonies. If the termites outnumber the ants, the little soldiers will be incapable of getting rid of the colony in its entirety.

In conclusion, you should never rely on ants alone to get rid of termites for you. Instead, choose a quality pest control service. While you wait for ants to get rid of termites naturally, your property could get damaged beyond repairs. The faster you act the less money you’ll have to spend on overcoming the damage.

Exterminators will also figure out whether any measures are needed to control the ant colony. This is particularly important for larger colonies and ants entering the house in search of sugar or similar sweet produce. A professional will typically carry out a thorough inspection in order to figure out which course of action will produce the most satisfactory results.

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