Messor barbarus (European Harvester Ant)
A type of harvester ant species commonly found throughout Central and Southern Europe. This species has a predominantly black body (gaster and thorax) with a red/brown anterior head. This is especially true in the queens and large major workers of this species. The minors and media workers normally lack this red trait.
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 undisturbed land amongst olive trees, at the base of mountain ranges and most abundantly, fields in the outskirts of cities where vegetation is abundant.
They are a generally docile species of ant that is very suitable for beginners 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 mainly active throughout the year but would benefit from a short period of hibernation from January - March.
It is illegal and strictly frowned upon to release any non-native ants into the wild.