Pharaoh Ants

The worker pharaoh ants are very small, 1.5 mm in length and vary in colour from a yellowish to brown with  a slightly darker thorax. The queen pharaohs have wings and are slightly darker and larger than the workers at  2.5 to 3.5 mm long. The winged males are black and are about 3 mm long. All Pharaoh ants have antennas and their bodies are divided into three distinct parts.

Habits & Behaviours

Pharaoh ants are one of the most common indoor ant species that invade properties throughout Ontario. They live in colonies that typically consist of non-reproductive female workers, reproductive females and males and several queens. Mature colonies can consist of thousands of ants. The workers constantly construct and protect the nest and forage for food. Unlike other ant species, they are able to quickly “bud” and move their colonies from place to place if  threatened, a fact which makes their elimination especially labour intensive.

When foraging for food, the workers leave invisible pheromone trails that lead the other worker ants to food sources. Workers will consume food on the spot and regurgitate it back at the nest to nourish developing larvae, non-foraging workers, and the queen. The winged reproductive males mate with females and then die soon after. Pharaoh ants cannot survive outside in the winter, but can survive if their nests are located inside.

Complaints & Destruction

Pharaoh ants are one of the most difficult ant species to exclude. Because pharaoh ants depend on indoor heating to survive, they tend to nest in properties and buildings that have a constant interior temperature, which usually means hospitals, schools, hotels/motels, restaurants, food-handling establishments, grocery stores, apartment complexes, or anywhere else where a steady, constant temperature is maintained.

Pharaoh ants typically make their nests in wall voids, under floors, behind baseboards, in trash containers, under stones, in cement or stone wall voids, and in light fixtures, but they can also be found nesting in several other undisturbed dark spaces. They can be found in dark, warm areas near hot water pipes and heating tanks, in bathrooms, kitchens, intensive care units, operating rooms, and so forth. Pharaoh ants are sometimes found foraging in drains, toilets, washbasins, bed pans, and other unsanitary sites and have also been found in sealed sterile dressing, intravenous drip systems, other medical equipment, and even patients wounds. Obviously this can cause a major problem to the hospitals.

Major Risks & Dangers

Structural damages

Pharaoh ants nesting in our wooden structures can cause significant and costly damages. They can also cause damage to foam insulation.

Health risks

Pharaoh ants do not sting, but they can bite. While pharaoh ant bites are not poisonous, they can cause pain and transmit diseases. These pests can contaminate sterile equipment and materials, food, and even wounds in flesh.

Reproduction & Life Cycle

Unlike many other ants, pharaoh ants can mate all year round and they mate inside the nest. Colonies have multiple queens. Reproductive females and males are winged, but cannot sustain flight. After the new queen has mated with one or several males, she will store the sperm so that she can use it to fertilize all of her eggs throughout the rest of her life. New colonies are initiated by a process called budding, when part of the colony will leave to initiate new ones. One or more queens may come along, although workers can raise new males and new queens from the brood. Budding usually occurs when colonies become too large or are under stress by changes in temperature or availability of food or water. Budding may also be triggered by insecticide sprays applied to trailing workers. Colonies are very mobile and can spread quickly.

Eating Habits

Pharaoh ants are omnivores and will forage for honeydew produced by aphids, fruits, plant juices, grease and fat, small insects and invertebrates, and any sweet sticky substances such as jelly and syrup.

Treatment & Prevention

To eliminate and reduce the risk of pharaoh ants invading and destroying your residential, recreational/cottage, or commercial properties, treatment and exclusion is the best prevention.

Greenshield Pest Control Inc. can provide you with many treatment, exclusion, and prevention solutions.


Both the detection and elimination of pharaoh ants can be a difficult and lengthy process that can take up to several months. It is extremely important to not treat pharaoh ant colonies with insecticide sprays, as the colonies will disburse and the infestation will spread. Infestations within your property usually require professional pest control measures with several treatments. If you suspect a pharaoh ant infestation within your residential, recreational/cottage, or commercial properties, it is best to let the professionals do the job of safely removing the insects. Please contact us today or see our Pest Control Services section for further information on the types of services and insect pest solutions we can provide.

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