Pharaoh Ants

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Pharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis) can infest homes, office buildings, apartments, commercial bakeries, factories, hospitals, and wherever food is handled or stored.

The main challenge of dealing with pharaoh ants is that they can spread quickly throughout the building. If disturbed, part of the pharaoh ant colony migrates to new locations to establish several new colonies. This behavior is called budding. Budding occurs due to a number of reasons such as overcrowding, seasonal changes in the building's central heating and cooling system, or applications of repellent pesticides or cleaning agents.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE PHARAOH ANTS?

  • You will usually notice the small amber-colored ants as they forage for food.

  • Pharaoh ant nests are difficult to find. Pharaoh ants are small insects, capable of living in internal wall voids and other unreachable spots and able of infesting all areas of a building.

WHAT DO PHARAOH ANTS LOOK LIKE?

  • Pharaoh ants are 1/16” in length.

  • Yellow or honey-colored to orange.

  • Petiole with two nodes.

  • Thorax uneven in shape when viewed from side with no spines.

  • 12-segmented antennae with 3-segmented club.

  • Workers are the same size.

ARE PHARAOH ANTS DANGEROUS?

  • Yes. In homes they contaminate food and introduce serious diseases to you and your family.

  • Pharaoh ants can transmit pathogenic bacteria to human, such as Salmonella spp., Staphylococcus spp., and Streptococcus spp.

  • Additionally, pharaoh ants are of particular importance in hospitals and nursing homes where they may enter wounds, enter IV bottles, infest sterile supplies, and seek moisture from sleeping patients.

 WHY ARE PHARAOH ANTS IN MY HOUSE?

  • Pharaoh ants often choose to live inside homes and buildings because they find food sources.

  • In our northern climate, pharaoh ants seek the constant source of artificial heat to survive throughout the entire year.

WHAT DO PHARAOH ANTS EAT?

  • Pharaoh ants can survive on a variety of food materials.

  • They are an omnivore pest capable of feeding on fat, simple proteins, and sweet-based food materials, carbohydrates, and insects (living and dead).

  • Pharaoh ants’ diet may include syrups, jellies, cakes, fruit pies, greases, shoe polish, sponges, in addition to dead insects and animals.

  • Historically, mint apple jelly and egg yolks have been used successfully as baits for pharaoh ants.

 WHAT IS THE LIFECYCLE OF PHARAOH ANTS?

  • A pharaoh ant colony consists of queens, males, workers, and immature stages (eggs, larvae, pre- pupae, and pupae)

  • Queens usually live for 12 months and lay about 400 eggs in 10 to 12 batches.

  • Eggs hatch in five to seven days.

  • The larval stage lasts 18-19 days; while, adults emerge from pupae in 2-4 weeks.

  • Depending on the temperature and relative humidity conditions, the developmental period from eggs to adults takes about 38 days for workers and 45 days for males and queens.

  • Worker ants live for 9-10 weeks.

  • Males normally die within three to five weeks after mating.

WHAT MAKES PHARAOH ANTS RESILIENT AND HARD TO MANAGE?

  • Pharaoh ants have a large colony size and multiple queens.

  • Pharaoh ant colonies readily split up when disturbed, creating a bigger infestation.

  • In this behavior pattern, part of the colony migrates to a new location rather than by a single female dispersing after a reproductive swarm.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW ABOUT PHARAOH ANTS?

  • In northern states, pharaoh ants nest in various indoor habitats. Their nests are typically found in difficult-to-reach places, such as interior wall voids.

  • The pharaoh ant foragers establish out-of-the-way trails between their nests and food or water sources. These trails are often located in the ceiling voids, behind baseboards, cabinets, and walls.

  • Pharaoh ants are mainly active at night, but can also be found during the day.

  • When temperatures are favorable, workers of indoor pharaoh ant colonies may forage outdoors searching for food and water.

  • When needed, pharaoh ant workers can forage up to 147 feet from their nest.

  • Pharaoh ants move along wires and pipes in the walls throughout the structure. Occasionally, they are seen entering a room through electrical outlets and switches.

  • Only 5% to 10% of the total pharaoh ant workers in a colony forage for food and water at a time.

  • Pharaoh ants form large colonies. A colony size could reach up to 300,000 workers with multiple queens (from 2 to over 200 queens/colony).

  • Unlike many other ants, pharaoh ants do not have mating flights to initiate new colonies. Instead, they reproduce by "budding", and spread quickly through the entire building. In this situation, one queen or more along with groups of workers migrate to new locations to start new colonies. Or otherwise, workers carry brood stages to new locations, and then a new nest will be formed.

  • If the new colonies are located nearby the initial colony, they will be connected for a while and share food and other resources. But if they are located a considerable distance from the initial colony, they will become separate colonies and act aggressively toward each other. 

4 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT PHARAOH ANTS:

  • Despite their names, pharaoh ants are native to tropical areas in West Africa, but currently pharaoh ants are widely spread throughout the world.

  • Pharaoh ants do not build mounds or tunnel wood; instead, they nest in any dark void in a structure.

  • Pharaoh ants are the most persistent and difficult ants to manage.

  • Many people mistakenly refer to pharaoh ants as "sugar ants". However, the real sugar ants are found in Australia.