Warning About Red Harvester Ants

TortoiseScott

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Oct 10, 2013
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Hi Folks,

I've read a lot of posts on these forums for some time now, but this is my first post here. I'm sorry it has to be this...

Last April I got a Sulcata tortoise. She's been asking for years, and it took some convincing with the wife, but we finally agreed and she was elated. He was about 2-3 months old when we picked him up from a local shop here in Las Vegas.

Fast forward to just a few weeks ago, we picked up a baby horned lizard (horny toad) out in the desert. We decided to co-habitate him with the Sulcata, and all was well. We'd been feeding the lizard crickets, but when I read that Red Harvester Ants were their primary (and best) food source in the wild, I ordered some. They arrived yesterday afternoon via US Mail, and we introduced them into the cage in the evening. We did a few at a time, and watched the lizard happily vacuum them up one-by-one. I'd read that adults can eat as many as 60-70 a day. This little guy sucked up about 15 or so. We dropped a few more in the habitat, so he'd have them to hunt in the morning... and went about our night.

This afternoon, my daughter came running with the tortoise in hand, worried because he was not moving. His eyes were wide open, and at first it seemed as though he was just paralyzed or stunned or something. Not one, but two of the ants had bitten him on the neck skin area, and latched on. They had to be pulled off (still alive) with tweezers. Their grip was remarkable, and unrelenting.

We rushed the tortoise to our vet, which is literally around the corner from our home... but it was too late. They said he had been dead for a few hours, at least. The doctor said the venom from those bites is rather potent and that some reptiles have a built-in immunity, most do not. He said it was essentially a deadly allergic reaction.

I'm absolutely devastated by this, my daughter is heartbroken beyond all belief. Mostly, I just feel like a total and complete idiot. I just had no idea. If I had thought for a moment this could happen, I would have never allowed it. I figured ants and tortoises share space all the time, and I just can't believe it.

I should have done more research. After the fact, I've been Googling around about this, and I don't find much. So I wanted to put my story out there for others who may Google down the road somewhere. Red Harvester Ants and Sulcata, at least the small ones (but probably even larger ones) don't belong together.

Thanks for your time.
 

nate.mann

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im very sorry to hear this. what a terrible experience. i dont mean to sound rude, i dont mean it that way at all, but thats just another lesson learned the hard way. i hope you recover soon and will consider keeping a tortoise again. people who have been keeping them for years learn new things about them everyday.


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Yvonne G

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I'm so sorry this happened to you and your family.

I've had trouble with ants ever since living here in Central California. They can be brutal, and it's very hard to keep baby turtles and tortoises, even eggs in the ground, safe from them.

In your case it's doubly tragic because you brought the ants into your home. Thanks for sharing this story. Another lesson learned the hard way.
 

TortoiseScott

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Oct 10, 2013
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Just wanted to thank you guys for the reply on here. It was a pretty rough experience. We learned a lot. My whole family HATES ants now... heh.

I didn't take anyone's comments to be negative, I know what you all meant by "lesson learned the hard way" and really, its exactly that.
 

Sulcata_Sandy

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{{{{{hug}}}}}

I am so, so, so sorry. Thank you for posting this story, I had no idea myself, and if know other lizard people who use those ants successfully.

At least we can move forward with this information and help educate. I'm sorry your family had to go thru this, but maybe knowing it will help many in the future will give you some comfort.
 
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