In our Ants of Arizona blog series, we’ve been talking about some of the most common types of ants you’ll find in the state of Arizona. We’ve talked about the Carpenter and Harvester ants, and in this entry we’d like to talk all about the ant that may have the fanciest name of them all – Monomorium pharaonis (Linnaeus), or the Pharaoh ant.
But why are they called Pharaoh ants? One theory is that these ants were mistaken as one of the plagues that hit ancient Egypt. They certainly are one of the most difficult household ants to control!
WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?
Pharaoh ants are about 0.05 to 0.07 inches, or 1.5mm to 2mm long. Like all insects, they have 6 legs, and 2 antennae. They are yellowish, light brown, or red in color and typically have a darker-colored abdomen. If seen up close, these ants would appear slightly transparent.
Pharaoh ant workers have non-functional stingers that they use to generate pheromones. Males are slightly larger at about 0.11 inches or 3mm and are winged but they do not fly. Queens are dark red in color, and are larger at about 0.14 to 0.19 inches or 3.6mm to 5mm long.
WHERE CAN I FIND THEM?
A Pharaoh ant colony consists of multiple queens, males, workers, and their young – eggs, larvae, pre-pupae, and pupae. Because they have multiple queens, a single colony can grow very large to as many as 300,000 ants.
Outside, Pharaoh ants like to nest in dark or shaded areas such as under piles of organic debris. Inside homes, they like to nest in warm, humid areas close to food sources. Not only are they able to nest under baseboards, behind wall voids, under floors and such places like most pesky ants do, but they may also nest in furniture, light fixtures, folds of clothing, and even between sheets of paper.
If a colony is disturbed, these ants will often disperse to establish other colonies in the home or surrounding area.
WHAT DO THEY EAT?
Pharaoh ants are omnivores and will consume almost any type of food. Their diet includes nectar, seeds, nuts, sweets, meat, greasy foods, or other insects. While a Pharaoh ant colony may nest indoors, they have been observed to forage close to windows, which may indicate a preference for outdoor foraging.
In a lot of other ant colonies, queens may essentially be waited on hand and foot – but with Pharaoh ant queens, they may “ask” for food from a returning scout that has brought food, and the scout may refuse. This scenario happens when food is scarce, and the scout prioritizes its own survival. I guess being a queen isn’t that special when there are a lot of other queens around.
ARE THEY DANGEROUS?
Pharaoh ants have a non-functional stinger. They’re capable of biting, but this presents no danger except in cases of very large infestations and a person suffers numerous, consecutive bites.
The bigger danger is that these ants may also carry and transmit a number of diseases including salmonella, staphylococcus, and clostridium. They are known to infest hospitals and transmit over a dozen pathogens.
They’re able to nest virtually anywhere inside the house like light fixtures, sockets, insulation – and may wreak havoc inside your house (especially since they will have multiple nesting sites). When they manage to build large nests in indoor structures, they may cause structural damage too.
HOW DO YOU GET RID OF THEM?
Pharaoh ants are one of the most difficult pests to control. They tend to create multiple colonies in one area, and when a single colony is disturbed those ants scatter and create new, smaller colonies that will grow large again very quickly (they can populate a large office block in as little as six months). This is called budding, and is a major nuisance even for pest control professionals.
They may prefer to nest near food and water sources like kitchens and bathrooms, but are also able to travel long distances to forage so their nest may not be nearby. They have been known to use electrical wirings behind walls as bridges to travel so their nests may be difficult to locate.
Insecticide sprays or dust only kills the ants directly affected and not their nests. Any sprays or dusts on the nest would cause the ants to disperse and scatter. Because they have multiple nests that are hard to locate – and because of ant budding – ant bait would be the most effective means to control their population if you’re doing your own pest control.
Be sure to use slow-acting bait, and remove all other food sources to maximize the number of foragers carrying the poisoned bait back to their nests. Use a protein, fat, grease, sugar, or carbohydrate based ant bait. Depending on the nutritional needs of the colony, you may need to change what the ant bait is based on if they’re not being baited by it.
Having an ant problem, especially a Pharaoh ant problem, is a huge headache. If they’ve infested your property, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional pest control company for assistance.
Ants belong to the order Hymenoptera, same as bees and wasps. They’re one of the most successful insect creatures on the planet, colonizing almost every landmass with only Antarctica and a few similarly inhospitable places lacking indigenous ants.
So it’s no surprise that they’re commonly found in US homes – they’re actually the most commonly reported pests, and figuring out what to do about these ants is easier when you know what you’re dealing with.
What do they look like?
Carpenter ants are one of the largest of all ant species, and are usually black though other types of carpenter ants may have red or yellow coloration.
Where can I find them?
They’re one of the most common ants found in Arizona, named so because they build their nests inside chewed out wood. They hollow out sections of trees or infest wooden buildings and structures, causing structural damage (and being an overall nuisance).
They typically have around 3,000 adult ants per colony, and you may spot these ants because of the sawdust they leave behind when creating their nests. A few ants in the colony are able to fly.
What do they eat?
They’re drawn to moisture (and like to nest in moist wood) and of course, food. They feed on protein such as living or dead insects (and pet food), and are also attracted to foods containing sugar and fat. They do not eat wood.
Are they dangerous?
Not only do carpenter ants bite in defense when their nests are disturbed, they’re also able to spray acid onto the bite wound which makes their bite more painful. They do not have stingers.
As mentioned above, they’re capable of causing damage to wooden structures.
How do you get rid of them?
If the nest is easily accessible, you can use carpenter ant foam or dust to kill the colony – be sure to follow the instructions on the package to get rid of them more effectively.
You can also sprinkle diatomaceous earth on the nest. This is a natural, nontoxic substance and is safe to use, however, may be harmful when inhaled by humans and pets so be careful when using it.
Another way to get rid of them is by using boric acid bait. You can get boric acid from a garden supply store. Mix 2/3 boric acid with 1/3 powdered sugar and place it near the nest.
What do they look like?
They may be a range of red, brown, or black in color. They’re about ¼ to ½ inches long.
Where can I find them?
Unlike carpenter ants, harvester ants like to live outside in yards and gardens. You’ll find their nests on the ground, marked by a crater or opening in the center of a small mound. These nests may be easy to spot, since they remove the surrounding vegetation and you may see bare spots on your lawn.
There can be as many as 10,000 harvester ants per colony.
What do they eat?
They harvest seeds as their primary food source – and that’s actually how they got their name. They may also collect dead insects, and are capable of eating human food such as crackers and candy.
Are they dangerous?
Despite their small size, they have large mandibles that are capable of painful bites. They also have stingers they use when their nests are disturbed.
They can wreak havoc in gardens and lawns, and are a big problem for farms.
How do you get rid of them?
You may be able to kill most of the harvester ants in their colony by pouring boiling water into their nest into the mound opening.
You can also try granular baits – place poisonous granular baits near the mound and let the harvester ants take it back to their nest.
Sprinkling diatomaceous earth on or near their mound also works to kill harvester ants.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with your local pest control company for help in getting rid of ant infestations.
Check out our other blog entries on ants here.
Using cinnamon to naturally take care of an ant problem is pretty popular on the Internet. You’ll find article after article detailing the steps of eliminating an ant problem yourself using only cinnamon.
A study published in the International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications in 2014 showed that cinnamon essentialoil is in fact highly effective in repelling and killing ants at certain concentrations.
So yes, cinnamon essential oil can repel and even kill ants, but note that it’s “at certain concentrations”, and the cinnamon essential oils you can buy at any store may not have the same level of concentration as the cinnamon essential oils used in the study.
Cinnamon sticks and cinnamon powders can also repel ants, but it won’t kill them. Sprinkling cinnamon powder on ants will only scatter them and make them angry, and placing cinnamon sticks on their entry points and routes will only make them find a new way in and out of your house.
Taking care of an ant problem means finding the nest and eliminating all the ants there, and your store-bought cinnamon oil may not be potent enough to kill them and only repel them – and that won’t help you in the long run.
If you discover an ant nest or mound, you’d be better off using commercial insecticide,or better yet, use professional grade insecticide that is sureto get the job done.
Most of the ants you see in your home are only a small fraction of the colony that is surely nearby – and those are forager ants, meaning they’re only there to look for food. You can help yourself out by eliminating possible food sources for these ants so they’ll be forced to look elsewhere.
Mop and vacuum your kitchen and clean your food pantry to ensure there aren’t morsels of food ants can help themselves to. Immediately clean up any food spillage, and regularly sweep to make sure there are no crumbs and other food debris that will entice ants and other pests.
Keep your food in airtight containers (note that some ants can chew through plastic), and keep them in places not easily accessible to ants. If you’re keeping pastry on your kitchen counter, consider placing the container on a tray filled with water, and you may also want to cover it with something in case a fly wanders in.
While ants can get in your house just about anywhere including the cracks between your floorboards, it can help stave off an ant infestation (or other pest infestation) if you seal and caulk cracks and crevices on your property.
Ants are one of the most pervasive critters you’ll find inside or outside of your home, and are in fact the most commonly reported pest in the US, according to the National Pest Management Association.
Ants are an extremely social creature, and where you’ll find one, you’ll find a colony or colonies nearby. The odd ant you’ll see here and there would be an ant assigned to look for food, which it will likely find in your kitchen. If you see a line of ants, it may be difficult to follow it back to their colony so you can see what you’re up against, but it would be worthwhile to at least follow the trail to their food source so you can properly store it away or dispose of it.
Eliminating ants isn’t as easy as other pests, since it’s not as simple matter of keeping your house clean, though it will help. Keep your food in places they can’t reach such as a closed container, and make sure you always clean up any spills.
Using chalk will only scatter them and leave them room to reorganize, and spraying them with insecticide will kill them, but the ants you see are only about 5% of the total number they have in their colonies. Once another ant foraging for food discovers a new food source, or rediscovers their old one, you’ll see a new line of ants in no time.
Sealing off entry points in your house – cracks in your walls, netting on windows, etc. – works great for other pests, but ants can get in just about anywhere, including between your baseboard.
You can try to follow their trail that leads to their colony so you can eliminate the problem entirely, but in most cases with an ant infestation, it’s best to have a professional come and do it for you.