Pharaoh Ant

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  • Colour Yellow to light brown, queens are reddish colour
  • Size Workers are 2 mm long, queens are 4 mm long
  • Description Pharaoh ants are very tiny ants that have 2 nodes between the thorax and the abdomen ; they are easily confused with thief ants however their antennae have 12 segments in total and it ends in a 3 segmented club.

What do pharaoh ants look like

Pharaoh ants are notorious indoor pests, often unnoticed due to their small size and colour. Workers are only 2 millimetres long. Though they are a tropical species, pharaoh ants are quite comfortable inside temperature controlled buildings in Canada and other temperate climates. One of the most difficult indoor pests to control.

Queen pharaoh ants are reddish in color and feature enlarged abdomens, which are slightly darker than the rest of the body. About twice as large as worker ants of the species, queens measure about 4mm in length. Virgin queens have wings but are not capable of flight. After mating, queens drop their wings.

Key characteristics

  • Yellow to light brown in colour, darker abdomen, appears translucent
  • Workers are 1.5 to 2 millimetres, queens are approximately 4 millimetres
  • Three-segmented club on each antenna
  • Thorax is evenly rounded
  • Two segments (nodes) between the thorax and abdomen

Habitat & Behaviour

A day in the life of pharaoh ants

Pharaoh ants mate in their nests and spread by “budding”, i.e. splitting the colony. They lack nestmate recognition so there is no hostility between colonies. A single colony may contain as many as 2,500 workers, but the close proximity of multiple colonies can give the illusion of a single, large, supercolony

Pharaoh ants are believed to have originated in the Afrotropic ecozone and were unintentionally introduced into Canada through human commerce. Acclimated for tropical climates, pharaoh ants found in Canada usually reside in heated structures. Nests often include multiple queens, which are capable of leaving their existing colonies to establish new colonies nearby. This makes the pest particularly troublesome because queens can spread colonies throughout the home in a relatively short amount of time.

Pharaoh Ant Queens

Unlike many species of ants, pharaoh ant queens do not need to leave the nest to mate, which allows for easier proliferation of the species. These queens breed continually and generally live between four months and a year. In a lifetime, a queen pharaoh ant produces about 400 eggs, which are usually laid in batches of 10 to 12 at a time. After a queen lays her eggs, the offspring take about 36 to 42 days to hatch and develop into adults. Reproductively capable males and females usually take a few more days to develop. Reproductives are usually spawned twice a year.

New pharaoh ant colonies form through a process called budding. Queens in existing colonies and several workers leave nests to establish new colonies elsewhere. Budding allows for the insects to spread infestations quickly and into nearly any area of a structure. Queens often choose undisturbed nesting locations, like wall and floor voids, but are capable of inhabiting tight, seemingly inaccessible areas, as well. Unusual places a pharaoh ant queen can form a nest include between linen sheets, inside of electrical wall outlets, and between books. The budding process makes control difficult because infestation sources can be harder to locate. Additionally, if one nest is taken care of, a separate nest in the same structure can continue propagating the species. Inadequate control methods can exacerbate the problem by enticing queens to further branch out within a structure.


Do pharaoh ants bites

With pincer-like jaws, some ant species are capable of biting humans and pets. As a small ant, only 1 to 2 mm in length, the pharaoh ant, or Monomorium pharaonis, does not bite. Pharaoh ants are budding ants, meaning the species does not swarm but may still infest areas of Canada quickly by establishing new colonies often. The insect has become a known pest of factories, office buildings, hospitals, and residences. Though the ant does not bite, the insect may detrimentally affect humans in other ways. The pharaoh ant carries and may transmit many diseases, such as salmonella, staphylococcus, and clostridium, which may cause botulism. While homeowners are usually safe from these pathogens, the ants may transmit disease in hospitals or health care facilities. The pharaoh ant seeks warm, moist places, allowing for susceptibility in hospitals as ants may try to inhabit wounds under soiled bandages.

Though not a threat to bite, the pharaoh ant may cause problems for homeowners, as the insect congregates on foods and dishes left unattended. Nests may be built in walls, between studs, or in insulation, causing limited structural damage. The pest may be considered more of a nuisance to homeowners. When dealing with the small, typically out of sight insects, residents may have difficulty eliminating the ants without the assistance of a pest control professional.

Pharaoh ants have become a serious pest in hospitals, rest homes, condominiums, apartment dwellings, office buildings, motels and hotels, grocery stores, factories, commercial bakeries, food establishments and other buildings. infestations in hospitals is especially problematic as these ants can transmit over a dozen pathogens.

These ants will infest almost every area where food is available. They will travel along electrical wires and plumbing and disperse through out buildings and even entire blocks.

Why do I have pharaoh ants

Pharaoh ants colonize warm, humid areas indoors, near drains, pipes, or wiring and are often seen in heated buildings during colder months, seeking shelter and food.

They typically build nests in wall voids, books, sheets of paper, behind baseboards and refrigerators, and in clothing, but can also nest between linen sheets, inside electrical switch boxes, and in wounds under soiled bandages.

Pharaoh ants will infest almost every area where food is available, travelling along electrical wires and plumbing and dispersing throughout buildings and even entire blocks.

How worried should I be about pharaoh ants

Pharaoh ants are a nuisance to homeowners, congregating on foods and dishes left unattended, and causing some structural damage during nest building.

However, they have become a serious pest in hospitals, rest homes, condominiums, apartment dwellings, office buildings, motels and hotels, grocery stores, factories, commercial bakeries, food establishments and other buildings.

Pharaoh ants are particularly dangerous in hospitals, because they can carry and transmit many diseases, such as salmonella, staphylococcus, and clostridium, which may cause botulism.

However, pharaoh ants are tough to eradicate because their colonies have multiple queens that reproduce quickly, then spread the colony by budding – leaving to set up nearby colonies.

A single colony may contain as many as 2,500 workers, but the close proximity of multiple other colonies can give the illusion of a single, large, supercolony. Multiple queens can spread colonies throughout a home or business in a relatively short amount of time.

The budding process makes control difficult, because infestation sources can be harder to locate. Even if one nest is dealt with, another one nearby can continue growing the infestation.

Inadequate control methods can exacerbate the problem by enticing queens to further branch out within a structure and build even more nests, spreading the infestation. As soon as you see pharaoh ants on your property, you need to call professional pest control services.

How can I prevent pharaoh ants invading

Clean up any spills and messes in dining areas, Rotate stored food items, first in – first out, Keep food preparation areas and floors clear of crumbs, Make sure your trash cans have tight-fitting lids


What should I do if I have a pharaoh ant infestation

Contact your local Orkin Canada branch immediately after identifying a pharaoh ant indoors. While seeing one or two ants may seem harmless, the pest reproduces rapidly under optimal conditions. Do not spray the ants; spraying typically worsens the problem, as pharaoh ants are known for “budding,” or creating satellite nests very quickly after sensing danger. Strategic baiting remains the best way to eliminate pharaoh ant infestations. However, using the wrong types of baits may also lead to budding. Trained professionals locate trails and place enticing baits appropriately for effective control. The process of controlling a pharaoh ant infestation in your home or business may take several months and up to a year, due to the heavy network of nests the creatures often boast.

How to get rid of pharaoh ants?

The process of getting rid of pharaoh ants can be a difficult one. Given their unique ability for budding, a DIY approach may not suffice to eradicate an entire infestation yourself. The application of some types of  treatments or misapplication can inadvertently force queens and workers to relocate or be replaced by a neighbouring colony. From there, the infestation will continue to expand, despite your best efforts.

As such, it’s best to focus on implementing preventative measures around and within your property to ensure pharaoh ants don’t find your home or business and the ideal space to build a nest.

  • Deep clean your kitchen and bathroom. Pharaoh ants are drawn to areas with moisture and humidity, not to mention sweet and greasy food sources they can easily obtain. Removing any potential residue or food sources means these pests won’t find your property appealing when looking for a new place to bud.
      1. Wipe down all surfaces, including flooring, walls and countertops.
      2. Scrub away residues left behind by appliances, like your stove, toasters, coffee makers or soap scum left in sinks or drains.
      3. Keep all groceries in airtight containers, including pet food.
      4. Avoid leaving food out uncovered for several hours.
      5. While completing the above tasks, watch for signs of pharaoh ants or other pests, especially in your pantry.
  • Fix leaking faucets, pipes, and drains. This ant species thrives in warm, humid spaces. The more areas that meet this criterion in your home or business, the higher the potential pharaoh ants will be attracted to the area and build a nest. Take steps to remove excess moisture through repairs and updating or tightening fixtures as needed. Soak up any additional wetness and check the area regularly to ensure there is no presence of pharaoh ants or other pests.
  • Seal cracks and crevices inside and outside. Pharaoh ants can establish nests in small spaces, given their size, before expanding their colony. Cracks and crevices provide an ideal area for  building nests but also allow these pests to easily be out of sight, allowing them to become a problem quickly. Use proper sealants along doors, windows, concrete foundations, siding, walls, and other areas with gaps.
  • Declutter your home and outdoor foliage. Reducing vegetation and clutter removes easy access and hiding places for pharaoh ants.  
  • Trim trees and shrubs that brush up against your home or business so these cannot be used to climb on your building.
  • Clean and organize any piles of clutter within your property, frequently checking spaces where you notice items build up over time.

If you suspect a pharaoh ant infestation, it’s best to call a professional pest control company like Orkin Canada. Our team can complete targeted  treatments designed to remove a pharaoh ant infestation at the source. Once complete, we’ll conduct regular inspections to ensure the problem is gone and strategically recommend preventative measures that will work best for your property.

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