Cover image for The world of the harvester ants
The world of the harvester ants
Taber, Stephen Welton, 1956-
First edition.
Publication Information:
College Station : Texas A&M University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xvii, 213 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm.
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL568.F7 T235 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The native red ants of Texas, favored prey of the endangered Texas horned lizard, are but one of many New World ants known as "harvesters." The two genera, Pogonomyrmex and Ephebomyrmex, range from southern Canada to southern Argentina and the western half of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (Haiti).Harvester ants are generally noted for their habit of building large gravel mounds in the center of huge clearings, for "harvesting" the grain of favorite grasses, and for their fiery stings. Some early naturalists believed that harvesters planted their favored grasses around their mounds--a claim that, though mistaken, could be imagined to be true of these well-organized, highly social insects. Two hundred years of study are summarized in this volume, which covers all aspects of the lives of the harvester ants.The book begins with the mythology and folklore surrounding the harvester ants of the Southwest and Mexico: the Aztecs believed that the red harvester brought corn to humankind, and Native Americans of the southwestern deserts invoked special rituals to placate the ants when their mounds were disturbed. Following sections describe the ants' evolution, distribution, nest structure, habits, foods, predators and cohabitors, defenses, chemistry and communication, and sex life. The final chapter considers the ants' interaction with humans, including its perception as a pest and the history of pesticide use.Appendixes give the scientific and common names of each harvester ant species, explain how to identify harvesters without technical devices, and provide a complete key to all sixty species. The key is supplemented by illustrations and distribution maps for every species. An extensive bibliography and a detailed index are included.Stephen Taber's excellent and beautifully illustrated book on harvester ants will serve as both a general guide to these ants for the lay audience and a quick, accurate, and inclusive reference for scientists.

Author Notes

Stephen W. Taber lives in Michigan, where he enjoys teaching college biology, photographing insects, and writing. He received a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Harvester ants (genera Pogonomyrmex and Ephebomyrmex) are New World natives. Several species may be found chiefly in southwestern Canada, western and southern US, Mexico, Haiti, and South America. These ants are noted for building large gravel mounds in the center of clearings. They "harvest" grass seed for food, and they sting. Taber, a biology PhD from Texas, lives in Austin and enjoys teaching college biology, photographing insects, and writing. He has produced a very interesting and readable book, a comprehensive study of a fascinating group of insects. Chapters include "Harvester Ants," "Living and Eating in the Nest," "Defending the Nest," "Communication," "Sex and Anatomy," "Evolution and Diaspora," and "Harvesters and Humans." There are four appendixes (including the description of a new species), a glossary, and a 16-page bibliography. Included is a key for identifying the species of harvester ants; each species is illustrated by a line drawing. Distribution maps show where each is found. Nicely illustrated with black-and-white line drawings, diagrams, and photographs. Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. R. C. Graves; Bowling Green State University