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Maricopa harvester ant

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Maricopa harvester ant
Maricopa harvester ant top view.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Pogonomyrmex maricopa

Maricopa harvester ant head.jpg
Closeup view of a Maricopa harvester ant's head.

The Maricopa harvester ant is a species of ant that is the most abundant ant in Arizona USA, which known by the scientific name Pogonomrymex maricopa. It is perhaps most infamous as holding the record for having the most venomous sting of all insects. The ant is about 5 cm long and spends its entire life in the desert areas. These Ants have two pairs of membranous wings, yet they will not have them for the majority of their life. They construct huge nests that can measure more than 30 feet in diameter and 6 feet tall. However this is only if natural forces do not destroy the nest, or if it is not invaded by other ant species. They were created on the 6th day of creation, along with all of the other land animals and humans.

Contents

Anatomy

side view of a maricopa harvester ant's body

Maricopa harvester ants range in color from bright red to dark brown. Their size is about 1 cm to 3 cm depending on their age. [1] The ant has 3 body segments which are the thorax, the head, and the abdomen. (Porch page 485) While most of the ants people see are wingless, the members of Pogonomrymex maricopa due in fact possess wings. However, since the only ants that have wings are the females and the males that actually can reproduce. They have two pairs of membranous wings that they lose after they mate. Since the males with wings die after they mate, and the females lose their wings most of the ants that people see are wingless. (Porch page 497) A feature that also separates this species is that they possess a stinger that is similar to that of a bee. They use the stinger as a defense against invading creatures and to capture their prey. The females are the only ones who have the stinger and they use it as a ovipositor (egg laying organ). [2]


Nutrition Maricopa harvester ants are seed gathering ants. They range around their nest looking for seeds and when they find them they take them to their nest. They also will feed on the dead bodies of other arthropods that they find on the ground or that they kill. [3]

picture of a harvester ant from the front.

Reproduction

Pogonomyrmex marciopa reproduce sexually. When the mating time occurs the male secretes pheromones from its mandibular glands. This secretion attracts both males and females to the location where reproduction can occur. The reproduction normally occurs on trees and branches near the nest. When the female is ready to reproduce several males will fight for the ability to reproduce with a single female. [4] After the female is fertilized it flies off to find a new place for a colony. It will climb a tree and in the process loses its wings. The mating process begins in the early stages of July through August when the males will congregate around the nest entrance to await the females. [5] The P. Maricopa has complete metamorphosis, meaning that the insect has four stages of growth. When the female gives birth it is in the from of an egg. When the egg hatches it is like a tiny unsegmented worm. While it is in the larval stage all it does in this stage is eat and grow. After a suitable length of time it goes into the pupa stage. The pupa stage is just the larval stage forming a case around itself. While it is inside the case it completely reassembles itself and when it emerges from the case it is in the form of the adult. (Porch page 497)

Ecology

picture of a harvester ant in a river.

Habitat

The Pogonomyrmex maricopa lives in the regions of New Mexico, Arizona. This is the only place where members of P. maricopa have been found, however there may be more places where they live that people have not discovered yet. The ants live in the desert and will rarely venture out to more populated areas. [6]

Homes

The maricopa harvester ant builds a large anthill that can measure up to 6 feet high. They construct the nest out of gravel and sand that the worker ants gather. The nests will become visible after almost a year of construction. The nest will keep getting bigger as time goes on and can eventually reach over 6 feet in height. If the nest survives the first 2 years of life, the nest will live for the lifespan of the queen which is about 17-25 years. After the queen dies the colony will move to a new location and start constructing a new nest. The new home would be about 90 feet from the old nest. The ants will keep repeating this process for the rest of their lives and then the younger ants will take over and keep the process going. [7]

Interaction With Other Species

The Maricopa Harvester ant impacts other species in a predominately negative way. They will clear out all the grass around their nests so that the animals that seek shelter in the grass will have to find a new place to live and might be eaten before they can arrive at that the new location. The P. maricopa is a scavenger and will eat pretty whatever it finds. [8] This ant will also forage up to 33 feet away from the nest in order to make sure that they bring back enough food for the entire colony. Which might deprive other animals of the food that they need to survive. [9]

Venom

The members of the Genus Pogonomyrmex 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 the attacker by clinging on to it with its mandibles.[10] After it has attached itself it will position itself so its stinger is facing towards the intruder. Then it will sting as many times as it can before it is dislodged or killed. The venom from the P. Maricopa has a LD50, meaning that .12 mg/kg and more than twelve times as powerful as a honeybee's sting. [11] A four and a half pound rat could be killed by as few as twelve stings and an 150 lb human could be killed by about 350 stings, without an allergic reaction. 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. [12] While this may seem like a high number of stings it is very low compared to the amount of stings from other insects. A human is especially in danger because when the first ant stings the intruder it will release pheromones that signals other members of the colony to come and attack the intruder. [13] However even thought the toxicity is so low there are relatively few deaths resulting from the venom. This might be true because the P. maricopa lives in the desert area of New Mexico, Texas, and Arizona. [14]

References

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