Sudden appearance of ants in Nevada



I live on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in western, central Nevada. We have had an unseasonably hot summer with some heavy occasional thunder storms.
I have always had mounds on my property (2 1/2 acres) with what I have always just called "red" ants. They are mean and do bite. Leaving a very red, painful welt that takes days to heal. My guess from looking at your website is that they might be carpenter ants?? I just know don't go standing near their hill....they don't like it.
All of the "hills" are located out away from the home and yard. Once in a while when they have started a new hole too close to the house and yard I have put Amdro ant bait on the mound.
This year I suddenly have hundreds (maybe thousands) of little holes all over the area. There seems to be only one ant per hole.
I have watched and the ant comes out with a rock/dirt, leaves it outside the hole, goes back in, only to come out with more dirt 30-60 seconds later. Again and again. The holes are very close to each other. 4 to 6 inches apart. Everywhere. One ant each. Some ants are a bit larger than others, but all seem to be ignoring the other ant building his home inches away. The ground is just cleared dirt. Rocky, clay with some DG. Some hay droppings from feeding horses. It's kept weed free and the wind blows most everything else away.
I have never noticed this happening before.
I have always suspected I probably live on top of a huge ant hill. The area is high desert and very rural. Lots of sage brush and undeveloped land.
Can you give me any insight as to what is happening here? What I should do to prevent this invasion?
If they take over at the rate the holes indicate I won't be able to go outside my back door until snow is on the ground.
I lightly sprinkled some Amdro granuals over the ground and around the holes, but for the most part the ants only seem to be interested in digging and not going after the bait.
Thank you,
Coreen - Wellington, NV

Dear Coreen:
Thanks for your interesting observations and question. First, I'm quite sure that what you are describing are not carpenter ants, but rather, harvester ants in the genus Pogonomyrmex, famous for their painful stings. From the description of the situation you ask about, it seems what you are seeing is young queen ants, just settled in from their mating flight and having broken off their wings, attempting to found new colonies. Mating flights of ants often take place after big summer rain events. The mortality of queens during colony foundation is very high, which is why mature ant colonies send out hundreds or thousands of virgin queens in their lifetimes, in the "hope" that at least one of them will be successful in establishing a daughter colony. Most likely only one, or possibly none of these foundling colonies would survive to adulthood (stinging stage, if you will) if left alone, but of course, you'll want to watch for colonies forming by next year if you are sensitive to the stings. Queens generally do not feed outside the nest while raising their first brood, but survive on body fat and proteins stored in their now useless wing muscles, explaining the lack of interest in the toxic bait at this stage. The queens' internal resources also provide the raw materials for the eggs they lay and the glandular secretions that would be used to raised the first few, small workers of the new colony, if they had settled somewhere more remote from your house.
Best regards,
James C. Trager of the Ask Ant Team

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