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Pogonomyrmex barbatus casent0006306 profile 1.jpg
P. barbatus worker
Scientific classification

Mayr, 1868
Type species
Formica badia
69 species

Ephebomyrmex Wheeler, 1902
Forelomyrmex Wheeler, 1913
Janetia Forel, 1899

Pogonomyrmex is a genus of harvester ants, occurring primarily in the deserts of North, Central, and South America, with a single endemic species from Haiti.[2]


The genus name originated from the Greek language and refers to a beard-like structure, the psammophore, below the head (Greek πώγων/pōgōn, "beard" + μύρμηξ/murmēx, "ant"), which can be found in most species of the subgenus sensu stricto. The psammophore is used for gathering small seeds, helping to increase the efficiency of transportation of fine sand and pebbles during nest construction, or to carry eggs. However, this structure is missing in species of the subgenus Ephebomyrmex (Greek ἔφηβος/ephēbos, "beardless lad"), and these species generally have smaller individuals and colonies.[citation needed]


Pogonomyrmex (sensu stricto) workers have the most toxic venom documented in any insects, with Pogonomyrmex maricopa being the most toxic tested thus far.[3] It has an LD50 of only 0.12 mg/kg, compared to western honey bee venom, at 2.8 mg/kg, and comparable to cobra venom. The venom is presumed to be an antivertebrate defense, specifically against predators that have evolved to selectively feed on them such as horned lizards. Very few insects have had the toxicity of their venoms formally tested, and other insects likely have more potent venoms.[citation needed]


These ants dig very deep nests with many underground chambers in which they keep seeds, from which they derive food for their larvae. The areas around most Pogonomyrmex (sensu stricto) nests tend to be utterly devoid of vegetation, and are easily seen from a distance.[citation needed]


In addition to horned lizards, predatory wasps in the genus Clypeadon feed only on Pogonomyrmex workers, paralyzing them with their venom, and carrying them back to a burrow where they will serve as food for the wasp's larva.[2]


As of 2014, there are 69 extant and 1 fossil species in the genus.[1]



  1. ^ a b Bolton, B. (2014). "Pogonomyrmex". AntCat. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  2. ^ a b Cole, A.C. 1968. Pogonomyrmex Harvester Ants: a study of the genus in North America. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.
  3. ^ W. L. Meyer (1996-05-01). "Chapter 23 — Most Toxic Insect Venom". Book of Insect Records. University of Florida. Archived from the original on 2008-06-13.
  4. ^ Johnson, R. A., et al. (2013). A new species of seed-harvester ant, Pogonomyrmex hoelldobleri (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), from the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts of North America.[permanent dead link] Zootaxa 3646(3), 201-27.
  5. ^ a b Cuezzo, F. and S. Claver. (2009). Two new species of the ant genus Pogonomyrmex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) from Argentina. Rev. Soc. Entomol. Argent 68(1-2), 97-106.
  6. ^ Johnson, R. A. and R. P. Overson. (2009). A new North american species of Pogonomyrmex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) from the Mohave Desert of eastern California and western Nevada. Journal of Hymenptera Research 18(2), 305-14.
  7. ^ Lattke, J. E. (2006). A new species of Pogonomyrmex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) from gallery forests of the Orinoco Watershed, Venezuela.[permanent dead link] Myrmecologische Nachrichten 8, 53-57.

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