Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue

Rescue, Rehabilitation, Release, Adoption.

Horned Lizard Food. Live Harvester Ants

“Horned lizards are among the most difficult lizards to keep in captivity because they have specialized dietary and thermal requirements, and they are susceptible to disease.” -Dr. Richard Montanucci, Herpetologist & author of “Maintenance and Propagation of Horned Lizards in Captivity”.

"Whenever captive, Phrynosoma will rarely survive if not given a regular offering of live ants". Dr. Wade Sherbrooke, author of "Introduction to Horned Lizards of North America" and horned lizard researcher at the Southwest Research Station, Portal, AZ.

"Unfortunately these lizards are frequently collected from the wild for pets. They usually die in captivity because of a lack of proper husbandry. This is an incredibly delicate lizard, subject to stresses which include handling. For this reason, it should be viewed only, and not handled at all"  David Cooper of the North Carolina Herpetological Society.
Click HERE to find out why Repashy Formic Cal is NOT a safe or suitable substitute for harvester ants!

Horned Lizard Food!
Feeder Ants for Horned Lizard (aka Horny Toad) or for Ant Farms

Pogonomyrmex barbatus spp.

These are fresh and live Harvester ants, from the same colonies I feed my own Horned Lizards (aka Horny Toads) everyday. Our rescued Horned Lizards eat most of them, but we usually have enough on hand to sell and help fund our efforts. Whether as food for Horned Lizards, or for ants farms, these are the most popular genus of ant.

Order from the people who actually keeps and understand horned lizards!

The P. barbatus species of harvester ant is the most abundant harvester ant species within the Horned Lizard's natural range; from Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, and into northern Mexico. The majority of Horned Lizards recognize this species of harvester ant as their primary food source. Other species of harvester ant sold by other suppliers (such as P. californicus), have a smaller relative distribution and may be rejected or not favored by some species of Horned Lizard.

(To ensure delay free transaction please see TERMS before ordering or making inquiries.)

  Spring 2017 - Collection Season is Open.


First Class Shipping Included


1000ct: $22.00 shipped




Tracking (Included)

Priority Mail Upgrade: $7.15 (actual USPS) 

Express Mail Upgrade: $28.00 (Speeds transit, not processing)

*Shipping Insurance: $3.00 (Must be purchased here even if using Express or Priority. Insurance claim for replacement is only available for Express if you received on first delivery attempt, or for Priority if sent to a PO box. No First Class insurance at all or curbside Priority will be covered anymore.)


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You will notice some of our competitors do not include their shipping price until checkout. With us, shipping costs are included.






Though objectionable to those of us involved in conservation, some horned lizards are still unfortunately legal in the pet trade. These are strip mined by the tens of thousands each year, and mostly traded on the east coast at trade expos. Most of them are destined to die from the stress or soon after purchase due to improper care. If you have purchased one, you may email a picture if you would like it identified and told what the sex is. Include a picture of the underside as well. 

If you have captured a horned lizard from the wild, either to keep as a pet, or under the belief that you are "rescuing" it, then I would urge you to contact us for information on returning it to the wild before deciding to make a pet of it, justifying it as a "rescue", or attempting to relocate it on your own, which would typically be a death sentence for them.

Horned Lizard Manual

The Horned Lizard Manual
4th Edition

The fourth edition to the manual which was originally written for the Montreal zoo in 2006, and which is currently in use by other zoological and herpetological institutions today. This manual continues to represent the most comprehensive reference on Phrynosoma husbandry to appear to date. This edition is full of new observations and research that the author has gleaned from an additional 3 years of maintaining and rescuing Phrynosoma. From notes about wild observations, to the exacting care required to treat and rehabilitate horned lizards from illness and injury.
The fourth edition is much improved and highly interactive. Many relevant medical or herpetological terms are linked to wikipedia definitions so that the reader may fully understand their usage. Medication references are linked to wiki entry or product information page, and recommended products are linked to manufacturer websites. When certain behaviors are described, the reader can click on the description and view a video demonstrating the discussed behavior.
With extensively detailed information on diet and digestive processes, environment and species specific behaviors, to clinical treatments and reptile formulary references; the fourth edition is a must read for any new Phrynosoma keeper, and has much to offer the advanced keeper, wildlife rehabilitator, or veterinarian.
See a full preview of the chapter:

Diet and Digestive Processes of Phrynosoma

The Horned Lizard Manual V. 3.9 - $20.00 via Google Drive
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Buyer pays fee -send as gift/Payment to Friend/Family

Why buy from us?

1. We are an animal rescue, and funds from the sale of these ants go to support our efforts in animal rescue, public education, and wildlife conservation; including the Horned Lizard.

2. We use sustainable methods to gather our harvester ants, which causes less impact to the local ecosystem.

    Our biggest competitors use methods such as complete colony excavation with backhoe tractors, or digging deep trenches and then  using compressed gas to evacuate the ants from their nest by blowing them out by the tens of thousands. These methods destroy the colony, which might have been there for a decade or more, and this results in the loss of a possible food source for wild Horned Lizards which live in the immediate area. Since these methods destroy colonies, which may take years for a harvester ant queen to build up, these methods are not sustainable in the long run.

   We gather harvester ants, using only vacuums on the ground surface. This ensures that not too many workers are taken from any one colony, and that the impact to the colony is minimal. The queen is quickly able to replace the lost workers without risking collapse of the colony, as would be the case with our competitor's methods.

   When we discover a young winged queen or male drone in our vacuums, and we know where they came from, we make every effort to return them to their colony so that red harvester ants here will have the best chances of continuing on strong in the wild. These harvester ants not only serve as an important part of the ecosystem as a food source for "Horny Toads", but are one of the few natural deterrents to imported red fire ant invasion. Though they frequently lose to fire ants, harvester ants compete for resources with fire ants, and can help slow or stop the spread of that invasive pest species.

3. We are by far the most reasonably priced, whether you are looking for these ants as feeders or for an ant farm. We are routinely priced several dollars cheaper for the same quantity than our closest competition, and some suppliers even ask for the outrageous sum of $8 for a mere 30 ants!

Basic Life Cycle of the Harvester Ant

The winged males and females gather at the entrance to their home colony where they were raised, awaiting spring and summer rain showers. After these showers, the winged ants take flight to mate. Once mated, the female flies off to become a new queen and start her own colony. The rain soaked ground helps her to dig just deep enough to lay her first eggs. She stays to keep guard, and survives on nothing but her own nutritional reserves until the new ants hatch. When the new young workers are born, they help to enlarge the colony for their queen and start gathering food for the colony as it grows. The workers are very industrious and spend all of their time digging tunnels, tending to the queen and the new young ant larvae, or foraging for food. The workers normally do not live very long, but the queen Harvester Ant and her colony itself may live for 12 or more years in the wild!

Horned Lizards

Most Horned Lizard species are largely dependent on Harvester Ants as the main food item in their daily diet. The average adult Horned Lizard may eat 50-100 ants a day, or more, depending on size and species. The percentage of Harvester Ants in your Horned Lizard's natural wild diet varies with species. This could be anywhere from 60% to 90% of its natural diet. Most Horned Lizard species in captivity are Phrynosoma platyrhinos (Desert Horned Lizard), which are on the higher end of the scale, probably second only to the P. solare (Regal Horned Lizard) or P. mcallii (Flat Tail Horned Lizard) in the amount of ants they eat.

Harvester Ants contain formic acid, which as harvesters of plant matter, is taken up from plants which produce it as a by-product of oxidation of CO2. Formic acid is believed by many Horned Lizard experts, such as Dr. Richard Montanucci (Maintenance & Propagation of Horned Lizards in Captivity 1989), to aid in creating and maintaining proper pH levels and flora in the digestive tract of the lizard. This lower pH may provide anti-infective protection from certain gram negative bacteria (which cause common illnesses in reptiles), and is believed may also keep gastric parasites in check by providing a less hospitable pH environment.

Formic acid is a simple building block of amino acids which form more complex proteins; useful in the repair of damaged cells among other things. Horned Lizards also derive hydration from this acid, which when metabolized gives a small amount of water, salt, and carbon dioxide as by-products. These ants, being seed and plant harvesters, are additionally a great source of essential fatty acids and albuminoid proteins for the lizards. This provides protein and energy the Horned Lizard needs without loading him down with heavy common feeder items (such as crickets and mealworms) which are high in fat and chitin, and which require more metabolic energy to digest. Overuse of cricket or mealworm prey items in the Horned Lizards' diet requires extra water in the bowels to digest, and often leads to a slowing of digestion and metabolism. This may lead to gastric impactions. For desert dwelling Horned Lizard species, water stores are better put to use elsewhere in the body, rather than being used to break down chitin or excessively fatty meals.

For many years rumors have circulated of formic acid supplements which can be sprayed or dusted onto crickets or other items, in order to provide Horned Lizards with formic acid, without giving them harvester ants in the diet. This is simply not sound husbandry or a safe practice. There are numerous other reasons why horned lizards have evolved their specialization on these ants, and which do not include formic acid as the primary reason for the specialization. These reasons include the nutrient dense seed diet of the harvester ant in the wild, as well as the digestive processes of the horned lizard itself; which derives the miscible nutrients from the gaster of the ant, without the need to digest the dense chitin of the exoskeleton. In this way the horned lizard (most of whom dwell in arid environments) efficiently conserves its hydration. Additionally, many commercially produced formic acid preparations are not originally intended as a food supplement for small animals, and the concentrations of formate are alarmingly high. This may lead to hypercalcemia, formate accumulation, formate intoxication, nerve damage, and optic nerve damage (blindness resulting). In the cases where this product is being used as a supplement for administration to lizards, take note of the warning that this product is admittedly experimental by the seller, and is also acknowledged as a known eye and respiratory irritant! 

Horned Lizards are generally difficult to keep in captivity and not recommended for the beginning reptile keeper. To ensure optimum health of your Horned Lizard and encourage full growth, feed him/her a varied diet that also includes a generous daily amount of live Red Harvester Ants.