Pharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis) get their name from the mistaken belief that the ant species was one of the ancient plagues of Egypt sent to punish the Pharaoh. Pharaoh ants are a tropical species believe to be originally native to Africa. Today, Pharaoh ants have established themselves throughout the US. These ants are particularly problematic because they’ve contributed to the spread of several diseases in hospitals.
APPEARANCE AND BEHAVIOR
The workers are 1/16″ long. Their bodies are yellowish or orange, with dark tips at their rears. Under magnification, Pharaoh ant antennae are 12-segmented, with a 3-segmented club at their tips. Pharaoh ant thoraxes are unevenly rounded, with a 2-segment waist. These ants possess stingers, but they rarely use them. Queen Pharaoh ants are about 1/8″ long and slightly darker than workers. Queens begin their lives with wings, but these wings fall off after they mate. Male Pharaoh ants are about 1/16″ long, winged, and black. They also have straight antennae instead of the elbowed variety of other Pharaoh ants. Overall, male Pharaoh ants resemble gnats.
Pharaoh ants build large colonies made up of thousands or even several hundreds thousands of workers. They also usually produce usually several hundred reproductive females in the same colonies. Pharaoh ant colonies also produce winged reproductives, but unlike other ant species, these reproducers do not swarm. Pharaoh ants are a particular problem in hospitals, where they seek moisture from wounds, IV bottles, open mouths, and more. Scientists studying Pharaoh ants and their impact in hospitals found forty-one species of bacteria in a sample of 1659 ants.
Inside, Pharaoh ants nest in warm, humid areas near sources of food and water. They usually build their nests in inaccessible areas such as spaces inside wall, behind baseboards, inside furniture, under floors, or between linens. Pharaoh ants will also nest in debris collected on flat roofs or venture outside onto flat roofs in warm weather for water and food (dead insects). The ants typically enter and exit via gaps in window and door frames or around damaged siding and base boarding. Workers forage widely from the nest in search of food and water, and establish trails to any sources they find. Pharaoh ants also commonly use electrical and telephone wires to travel through walls and between floors.
PHARAOH ANT CONTROL AND PREVENTION
First, you should determine where the ants are. If you can’t find them right away, try baiting them out with jelly or another sticky, sweet substance. Inspect the perimeter of your building outside. Be sure to look around thresholds and window ledges to spot possible ant activity. Patch up any openings you find during your outdoor or indoor inspections.
After you’ve addressed the ways they’re getting in, address why they wanted to come in, too. Make sure your kitchen, dining areas, and garbage areas stay clean and tidy at all times. Store your food in airtight, hard plastic containers, and clean up any crumbs and other residue frequently. Controlling their access to food is the best way to prevent ant infestations.
PROFESSIONAL PEST CONTROL
Treating Pharaoh ants can be very tricky for non-professionals. Typical ant control techniques (such as using repellent liquid or dust insecticides) won’t work. In fact, they actually make the situation worse by splitting Pharaoh ant colonies into several, smaller colonies. You might notice a short-term improvement after applying repellents, but the improvement won’t last. Pharaoh ant colonies can split as many times as you treat them, and the problem will only get worse and worse.
Baiting is the only truly effective method of controlling Pharaoh ants. When Plunkett’s treats Pharaoh ant infestations, we place multiple bait stations in strategic locations. We place our baits as close to where ants are entering and exiting as possible, to catch as many of the workers as we can. If the Pharaoh ants infest a multifamily building, then the only way to eliminate them is to inspect and treat the entire building. If we’re treating Pharaoh ant infestations outside, we apply an insecticide barrier around the perimeter of your home. We’ll also bait the window sills and door frames to kill any Pharaohs that attempt to enter from those vectors. When you have a Pharaoh ant infestation, the best way to treat it effectively and permanently is to call Plunkett’s right away.