How to Identify Pharaoh Ants

The pharaoh ant is an invasive ant in Canada and an increasingly common indoor pest.

 

Why are pharaoh ants a problem?

Pharaoh ants can spread quickly throughout a home or business. Not only do they have multiple nests – sometimes hundreds of nests or more in large apartment and condominium buildings – but they easily are spread to new locations in people’s belongings.

 

What do pharaoh ants look like?

The pharaoh ant often is confused with the thief ant, which is similar in size and colour. Key characteristics of the pharaoh ant include:

  •  Size: 2 mm or about 1/16 inch
  • Colour range: yellow to light brown to reddish
  • Distinguishing features: The colour of the ant’s abdomen is a darker red; it has three segments on the tip or club of its antenna, while the thief ant’s antennal club has two segments.

 

What should I know about pharaoh ants?

To get rid of pharaoh ants, it helps to know how they live and behave:

A pharaoh ant colony has multiple queens. It propagates by ‘budding,’ where queen and worker ants split from the main colony to form new nests. Because the queens in each new nest can lay hundreds of eggs in their lifetimes, the total pharaoh ant population quickly becomes large and widespread.

Pharaoh ant colonies panic and split into multiple nests when they are threatened, such as when sprayed with ant repellent. Ant repellents should never be used to kill pharaoh ants; repellents make a pharaoh ant problem worse.

It’s easy to confuse pharaoh ants with thief ants, which also are small and similarly coloured. If you are not sure which ant you have, assume they are pharaoh ants and do not use ant repellent sprays.

Pharaoh ants are omnivores. They switch between eating fats, carbohydrates and proteins and will travel up to 45 meters (nearly 150 feet) on both horizonal and vertical surfaces to find food. They actively forage day and night.

Pharaoh ants originally come from Egypt, or possibly South America, Africa or India.

 

Where are pharaoh ants found indoors?

Pharaoh ants prefer heat and humidity, so they are frequently found in kitchens and bathrooms near a source of water. Their nests will be in hard-to-access places, such as within walls, under floors and behind baseboards and windowsills. 

In commercial buildings and multi-residential housing, pharaoh ants are found in kitchens, laundries, boiler rooms and around toilets, sinks, pipes and heating ducts. 

Pharaoh ant trails are hard to track. The ants often travel behind baseboards and cabinets, and within walls on wiring and plumbing pipes. As such, you may see them emerging from electrical outlets and near plumbing fixtures. Get tips for how to follow ant trails.

 

Where are pharaoh ants found outdoors?

Pharaoh ants do not live outdoors in Canada. The Canadian climate is too cold for the non-native ants to survive.

 

How do pharaoh ants get into the house?

Pharaoh ants get into the house by hitching rides in people’s belongings. They are moved from infested buildings to new locations in furniture, home goods and personal items. The ants also come into the house in used furniture. Read our expert guide: How to Keep Ants Out.

 

What are the best ant killers for pharaoh ants?

It is essential to use the right pest control products to kill pharaoh ants or you will make the ant problem worse:

Ant traps - The best ant killers for pharaoh ants are ant traps (also called ant bait stations), which are filled with an insecticide bait. Foraging ants take the bait back to the colony where it is shared among the workers, larvae (baby ants) and queens. To eliminate pharaoh ants, you must kill the queens. Place ant traps where pharaoh ants are active, such as under sinks. Slow-acting bait gets the best results. Learn about ant traps and insecticide baits and how to use them.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE) - Also called DE ant powder or DE ant dust, DE can help reduce the number of foraging pharaoh ants, but it will not kill the queens or colony. Apply it to wall voids, behind baseboards and cabinets where the ants are active. The ants will walk through this natural desiccant, which scratches the waxy outer layer of their exoskeleton, causing them to dry out and die. Learn more about DE and how to apply it.

Ant repellents - Repellents are not recommended for use on pharaoh ants because they will cause the colony to panic and split into multiple nests, ultimately creating a bigger ant problem.  

 

Also read:

5 Steps to Get Rid of Ants for Good

7 Common Ant Pests in Canada

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

How to Inspect for Ants

How to Follow Ant Trails

The Best DIY Ant Killers in Canada

How to Keep Ants Out

How to Get Rid of Ants Outside

 

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