How to get Rid of Pharoah Ants

Meet the Pharoah ant (Monomorium pharaonis (L.). Two words describe it, annoying and troublemaker. They are tiny and hard to destroy. They breed continuously, nest in secluded areas and eat sweets and fats. Its name is thought to be derived as being one of the plagues of ancient Egypt.

The Pharoah ant lives to forage. They forage in wet places, drains, toilets, washbasins and bedpans. They forage in sealed packs of sterile dressing, intravenous drip systems, on surgical wounds, in food and medical equipment. Places we view as sanitary, such as hospitals, can contain colonies of these persistent creatures.

Pharoah ants make chemical trails, emitting a pheromone so they always know how to get back to favorite foraging spots. They will forage long distances from their nesting sites, up to 115 feet or more has been reported. They may vary the trail they use on any specific food mission making them even harder to detect.They produce elaborate chemical trail networks throughout their foraging environment. These trails are laid down by the worker ants. The ants use the trails as a communication tool, in addition to having very keen eyesight and tactile capabilities.


They are a tropical ant. While historically native to Africa the activity of humans have allowed them to be distributed throughout the world. In the colder areas of the United States they cannot survive, so they reside in heated buildings. In warmer climates of the United States they nest outdoors in leaf litter, bricks, potted plants or under roof shingles. They love temperatures between 80 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

These ants live in hospitals, veterinary clinics, rest homes, apartment dwellings, hotels, grocery stores and food establishments. Conditions they like are wet, humid, hot and a fconstant source of food.

What do they look like?

The worker ants are so small they are barely detectable. Divide an inch into 16 parts and you’ll have 16 Pharoah ants each 1/16 of-an-inch long. To recognize one look for a light yellow to reddish brown colored ant with the abdomen a bit darker in color. They have a narrow waist, which technically is called the petiole, and located between the thorax and abdomen. The thorax has no spine. The eyes are well-developed. The Pharoah ant is known as the two-node ant to scientists.

Is there anything good about this ant? The only good thing about this annoying scavenger is they have no stinger.


They are most commonly compared to the Thief ant, but if you were to look at them side by side, you’d see that the Pharoah ant is larger.

In contrast to the Thief ant, whose antennae has a two-segmented club, the Pharoah ant’s antennae segments end in a distinct three-segmented club

Pharoah ants, unlike other ants, breed continuously. However, the queens do not have nuptial flight or exhibit territorial behavior. Other ants create reproductive swarms above ground, while the Pharoah Ant is happily reproducing right in the nest. Other ants have one queen, the Pharoah ant has multiple queens making colonies difficult to destroy.


Biologically speaking the Pharoah ant is considered omnivorous. Move over junk food addicts, the Pharoah ant has you beat with particular taste for jams and jellies, sugar and honey, peanut butter, syrups, juices, cakes, pies, cookies and sweet drinks and sodas. They will also feed on dead insects. This ant has a craving for sweets and fatty foods, such as butter, meat , greases and shortening


They gnaw holes in items giving them the troublemaker description. It’s enough to make you sick in areas where you are supposed to be getting well, such as hospitals. They transmit diseases and contaminate sterile items. Infections such as, Staphylococcus and Psuedomonas, are associated with these ants.

THE QUEENS (polygynous)

Female Pharoah ants lay undreds of eggs in one lifetime. The eggs need an 80 degree Farenheit or above temperature to hatch coupled with an 80% humidity. With these conditions eggs will hatch in 5 to 7 days. The life cycle is between 38 to 45 days.


Pharoah ants have copulatory organs for internal fertilization, according to a University of Michigan study. The female will mate with one or more males and store the sperm to fertilize eggs throughout her lifetime. This is biological termed a haplo-diploid genetic system. If an egg moving down the queen’s reproductive duct is fertilized it becomes a diploid female, if it is not fertilized it becomes a haploid male.


It consists of mulitple queens, the lifeblood of the colony. The males are winged and a colony will also include sterile females called worker ants. Don’t forget the eggs, larvae, prepupae and pupae the pulse of the colony. Colonies can reach hundreds of thousands of members.

These ants are not loyal to their colony and will move (called satelliting, fractionating or budding) if conditions warrant to start new colonies. The fact they are nomadic make them hard to kill. They jump colony and set up new headquarters elsewhere, quickly spreading and creating multiple colonies. They will move out and start a new colony if a pesticide is detected earning them the right to be annoying and troublesome.


Since 16 Pharaoh ants can fit into a one inch space nests are thimble sized and are found located in the tiniest of spaces such as between paper, in clothing, inside furniture, and in foods.

Nests occur in walls, floors, baseboards, garbage containers, light fixtures and more. If it is dark and warm, that is where you’ll find the Pharoah ant.


This is a hard task because they are nomadic insects. It is best left to a professional. Colonies quickly rebound. Ninety percent of a colony can remain hidden.


Do not use repellent products such as pyrethrins because they could actually cause infestations to spread to new areas. The nomadic ants would take up residence elsewhere. The result would be multiple colonies. Controlling the Pharoah ant once they take up residence will take time and money.


The Pharoah ant is described by exterminators as the most invasive of all household ants. They build colonies quickly and spread is difficult to control. Careful examination is required from roof to basement. Colony locations, food sources and chemical trail networks need to be located. Then established trails are marked with stickers and dated. Not many of us would have the patience required for the task.

A professional would treat walls and ceilings through cracks and crevices with boric acid dust. The ants need to be kept in the area long enough to carry the insecticides to the main colony to poison the rest of the colony.

Applications of odorless bendiocarb (Ficam) quickly destroy Pharaoh ants if treatments are thorough. Ficam 76 percent WP and 91 percent dust are labelled for licensed commercial and pest control operators. The bait products most recommended for Pharaoh ant control include: boric acid plus mint apple jelly (Drax), hydramethylnon (Maxforce), methoprene (Pharorid), bendiocarb (Ficam), propoxur (Baygon) and sulfluramid (Pro-Control).

After bait stations are placed, one will see ants trailing to and from these bait stations. Do not spray or disturb the ants or bait stations. Ants must be allowed to carry the bait back into their nest where the active ingredient in the bait will eliminate the colony.


Use sticky tapes and wrap around objects as a barriers prevention. The ants will get stuck and cannot move further. You can also use petroleum jelly and glues. Prevent entry by sealing cracks and crevices with caulking compound after applying low residual repellents. (Dursban) or Diazinon work well.

Sanitation is the one essential element to deter the Pharoah ant. Elimination of food sources will make them more receptive to insecticide baits.

Educational Resources:

Ohio University Source

Lancaster University

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Extermination Resource:

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