Messor angularis (Kenyan Harvester Ant)
This sub-saharan desert species is rather rarely seen for sale in the ant keeping hobby due to its desert based nesting behaviour in Africa. Messor angularis is similar to its Southern European counterparts, Messor barbarus. However, unlike these, they always have a characteristically bright red head instead of black. This 'bicolourism' in this variety of ants is pretty striking, not to mention, their unique lack of hairs which makes them appear almost 'glossier and bolder' than Messor barbarus or similar European species.
Harvester ants? Like many species belonging to the Messor genus, they actually do just that! These little critters will form several metre non-stop lines of workers carrying plant seeds and husks from A (source of seeds) to B (back to nest). Usually from dawn till dusk! It gets even more interesting!
Harvested seeds aren't actually just collected and stored. In order to become useful to the colony, the workers (usually those of the media caste) will deshell the pulp from the husk and chew this and combining it with their own saliva and enzymes to create a type of 'ant bread'. This is then fed to their youngsters, the larvae!
In the wild, nests are often found amongst low lying shrubs and ground dwelling plants typically associated with sub-saharan habitats. They take advantage of their large polyrmorphism and caste system as one will typically find nest entrances guarded by larger worker ants, with wide heads that display some rather striking mandibles to deter unwanted visitors!
They are a generally docile species of ant that is suitable for beginners looking to get into exotic ant species or more experienced enthusiasts alike. In terms of growth they are quite fast to develop once the colony reaches 20 workers and over. Due to the nature of their natural environment, these ants are active throughout the entire year, thus not requiring hibernation.
It is illegal and strictly frowned upon to release any non-native ants into the wild.