Pharaoh Ants

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Pharaoh ants inside a home in Bowie MD

 

Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh Ants are a common type of ant that has been distributed worldwide, as it was spread for centuries by international trade. Pharaoh ants get their name from the fact that they were once believed to originate from Egypt.

A Pharaoh ant colony has multiple queens and nests, and propagates by fission or budding. Pharaoh ants are tramp ants, characterized by their transient nesting behavior. They are known as the most difficult type of household ant to control. This is because Pharaoh ants have a predisposition towards creating "satellite" colonies. An application of residual insecticides often triggers the splintering of a colony of Pharaoh ants into numerous satellite colonies. In cases where treatments are applied repeatedly, Pharaoh ant infestations can spread throughout an entire building. Even without insecticides, a localized infestation of Pharaoh ants can spread quickly. Colony budding is a contributing factor, but the main cause is inadvertent transport by people. They can also forage long distances.

In temperate regions, Pharaoh ants nest indoors, but in the tropics they often nest outdoors. In their selection of nest sites, they are opportunistic, occupying any crack or crevice with sufficient warmth and high humidity. In houses, they are frequently found in kitchens and bathrooms, near a source of water. Nests are often located in inaccessible spots such as interior wall voids, under floors, and behind baseboards or window sills. In institutional facilities, they are found in kitchens, laundries, boiler rooms, and around toilets, sinks, heating ducts, and pipes. They are potentially dangerous in hospitals because of their ability to transmit disease organisms.

Pharaoh ants forage both day and night, often going undetected due to their small size and cryptic habits. Their trails are often hidden behind baseboards, cabinets, and walls where they use wires and pipes to travel, but trails sometimes become evident when they emerge from electrical outlets and plumbing fixtures. Outside, trails are found around windows and doorways and following along the edges of bricks or siding. The extensive foraging of Pharaoh ants is facilitated by trail pheromones. This includes the intensity of depositing pheromone relative to food quality, the type of pheromone, and even specifics such as the angle of diverging pheromone trails.

Pharaoh ants are omnivores, feeding on fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. They scavenge, and they kill small insects. To ensure a balanced diet, they have an alternation and satiation response to food: when Pharaoh ants are confronted with a choice between carbohydrates and proteins, colonies prefer the one they have not been feeding upon, and when provided a preferred food for an extended period of time, colonies will then switch to other foods when offered a choice.

Pharaoh ant workers are small, measuring at only 1.5 to 2 millimeters long. Pharaoh ant coloration varies, ranging from yellowish or light brown to red, with their abdomen frequently being darker in color, even blackish, especially at the tip. Their antennae have 12 segments, with a 3-segmented club. Pharaoh ant eyes are relatively small. As a two node ant, Pharaoh ants have stingers, but the stinger is rarely extended. Queens are similar in color to workers, but are about twice the size.

 

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