- Red colored body
- Have a row of hairs on the underside of the head (psammaphore)
- Has a powerful sting
- Have 12 segmented antennae without a club
The workers of this species are monomorphic (one size) although variations in size occur. Pogonomyrmex barbatus is generally red in color with some light/dark variations. They have 12-segmented antennae without a club, a row of hairs (psammaphore) on the underside of the head which enables them to carry large loads. The epinotum is armed with a pair of spines. All sutures on the thorax are weakly defined (suturiform). New colonies are formed by mating flights. They occur most commonly following rain during August and September. Males take flight first and swarm above a landmark. Females emerge from the nest and fly into the swarm and select one or two males and mating follows. The newly mated queen finds a suitable nesting site to start a new colony. The males may return to swarming and attempt to mate with other females.
The red harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus (F. Smith), ranges from Kansas and Oklahoma through western Texas into Mexico and southward through New Mexico and Arizona. It occurs sporadically in extreme southern Utah. In the southern part of its range it is commonly found at elevations of more than 3,000 feet. In the United States, Pogonomyrmex barbatus occurs in areas of comparatively low elevations, nesting in soil on open land. They may be more commonly found in cultivated land than non-cultivated because of the available food. They nest in barren circular areas of varying size with a single entry hole. The nesting area averages about 12 feet in diameter but may range from 3 feet to 35 feet. The ants remove the vegetation around the nest allowing the sun to keep the area warm and dry. There may be one or more distinct foraging trails that lead from the nest entry hole to surrounding vegetation. Foraging trails may extend outward for 200 feet, becoming less distinct farther away from the nest. Nests are constructed consisting of many tunnels and chambers where the workers store seeds, which are the main food source, along with scavenged arthropod flesh. They prefer small seeds and gather Alfalfa, burr clover, Johnson grass, oats, wheat, Bermuda grass, wild sunflower, mesquite, beans, and others. Nests may be excavated to great depths, one nest reportedly extended 15 feet deep and contained 436 chambers. This ant causes considerable damage to grass and cropland when it constructs nests for its huge colonies. The red harvester ant in lawns and city parks make these places unsuitable for recreation as people are often attacked and stung while playing.
Generally harvester ants are easy to control. Destruction of their nests and habitat through regular discing and mowing may eliminate them without resorting to use of insecticides. Any insecticide registered to control ants can be used to control them. Baits labeled for application to lawns to control harvester ants are very effective. Dust insecticides labeled for ant control can be effective when injected into entry holes. Drenching the mounds with a residual insecticide is least desirable, but an insecticide labeled for drenching can be injected into entry holes with a compressed air sprayer with good results.