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Pharaoh Ants – How To Get Rid of Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh ants driving you crazy?  They crawl out of wall switch plates, along sinks, bathtubs and seemingly appear out of nowhere.  Spraying won’t kill them in most cases either.  But using an old tried and true technique with an “Insect Growth Regulator”  just might do the trick.


Pharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis) don’t really get their name from the ancient pharaohs of Egypt, but rather from their scientific subspecies name “pharaonis”.  There are some stories floating around about these ants infiltrating the tombs of the ancient kings.  But in modern times Pharaoh ants have been and continue to be a serious problem in hospitals, medical facilities and homes.  They are considered a “tramp ant” and 1 of approximately 6 ants having this designation.  The other tramp ants are the Argentine ant, Crazy ant, Odorous House ant, Big Headed ant, White Footed ant, Rover ant.  Fire ants are often considered to be a “tramp ant” in some scientific circles, although they do not commonly infest homes and buildings.

Tramp Ants

Pharaoh ants are  – considered a  “tramp ant”  because of their small size, multiple colonies and varied food sources.  They are some of the tiniest of ants, 1/16th – 1/32th of an inch and are often confused with thief ants and rover ants.  Pharaoh ants are golden tan to golden brown in color.  All workers are the same size. The queens are substantially larger than workers.

Pharaoh ants are not native to the United States.  They were imported from abroad centuries ago in ships and cargo. They can be found across the entire United States and scattered around the world.  Most major cities of the world have Pharaoh ant infestations.

These prolific little creatures can hitchhike on boxes, packages, food and plant containers and wind up just about anywhere.  Once introduced into a new environment, they can easily find a suitable means for survival in homes and buildings. That’s why they are considered a “tramp ant”.

In the 1980’s, Pharaoh ants became well known in hospital circles where they would routinely infest burn units.  These ants would appear out of nowhere and openly feed on the exposed skin and mucous of burn patients.  Pharaoh ants would also appear in nurseries and infant care centers and feed around the mouths and eyelids of babies.  As you can imagine, this created an uproar across the country with news articles appearing on local as well as National news networks.

In recent years however, Pharaoh ants don’t make the news quite as often as they once did.  They can still remain a serious threat in some cities, especially those areas where outdoor pesticide usage has drastically declined.  Pesticide reduced usage programs in and around medical facilities leaves the door wide open for these ants to infiltrate.  Most homeowners only spray pesticides when they see a problem.  This also creates opportunities for Pharaoh ants to infest.

Whatever the situation is – hospital, nursery,  daycare center or home, Pharaoh ants can become a real problem where professional expertise is needed to get rid of them.  Using the correct products will make getting rid of Pharaoh ants much easier.

Small Hidden Colonies, Multiple Queens

Pharaoh ant colonies are often hidden inside wall voids, and can be found in the insulation of outer walls and around water lines.  They need moisture to survive and also are attracted to heat.

Their colonies are often small in comparison to other ant species, with only 2500 or so workers present.  Pharaoh ants are also “polymorphic” meaning multiple queens.  While some ant species have a single queen, these ants have many queens per colony.  As many as 100 queens or more per colony have been known to exist.  That’s a lot of queens for a small size ant nest.

Pharaoh ant colonies will also “bud” or divide into several new colonies.  So the few ants that you see crawling on the wall or across the counter may be an indication of a much larger problem.  If the correct treatment methods are not used, Pharaoh ant populations can grow and explode in response to incorrect treatments.  In some situations, controlling Pharaoh ants can seem like an endless task with them showing up in random areas and you seemingly “chasing” them around the house.

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How To Get Rid of Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh Ant Worker

Pharaoh Ant Worker
Size 1/16th Inch

Best Pharaoh Ant Baits

The most important thing to know about baiting for ants, is that worker ants will not feed on anything unless instructed to feed by a scout ant.  Scout ants find the food sources for the colony. Once a food source is located, the scout will produce what is called a “trail pheromone”.  This pheromone instructs the worker ant to feed and carry food back to the colony.

This is why you can place bait directly in the path of ants, and sometimes they will not feed on it. If you are lucky, there will be scout ants that find the bait and immediately begin dropping the trail pheromone.

Maxforce Quantum Ant Bait is another good choice.   Simply place a drop or two of the Quantum bait into the supplied feeding trays, and place wherever you see the ants.  Drops of Quantum can also be placed inside electrical switch plates, on plumbing lines, counters, window sills and other places where these ants roam. A drop the size of a pea is all that is needed.

Advion Ant Bait Gel works great if the Pharaoh ants will feed on it.  It doesn’t contain any special attractants, but it will kill the entire ant colony through a transfer effect.   IF Pharaoh ants feed on Advion, it is probably the best overall choice as far as gel baits are concerned.  This is due primarily to the active ingredient “indoxacarb”.  This chemical has a transfer effect through the worker ants that will wipe out the entire colony.

Using Insect Growth Regulators

The IGR, Peanut Butter, Apple Mint Jelly and Straw Method

Simply mix a small amount of Pivot 10 (1/4 oz) in a small bowl of 1/4 cup peanut butter and 1/4 cup apple mint jelly.  Mix it all together really well and then using a spoon, fill a small syringe or turkey baster with the mixture.  Then inject regular drinking straws with this mixture and cut the drinking straws into 1 inch lengths.  You should be able to make about 10 straws and about 100 – 1 inch lengths that we will call “bait tubes”.

Place the bait tubes in areas where the ants can find them.  Inside electrical wall switch plates, plumbing accesses, cabinets, along counters, etc.  Use lots of tubes depending on the size of the area you are baiting.  Unused tubes can be placed in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator.

Inspect the tubes after 1 week and see if ants are feeding on them. It is common to find small “pilings” of bait next to the tubes.  This also indicates feeding.  Replace any tubes that are empty and focus on these areas.  Empty tubes indicate the nest may be close by.  Use several tubes in areas where heavy feeding is found.

Check the tubes again after 2 weeks and replace as needed.  This cycle may need to be continued for 1-2 months or even longer in some cases.  It may seem like a futile effort, but if the ants are feeding, control will eventually happen.  You won’t see piles of dead ants, they just disappear.  When there is no ant activity for at least 30 days, it can safely be assumed that they are gone.

After Baiting – Start Exterior Prevention

At this point it is highly recommended that a preventive exterior treatment program be started.  Spraying can work, but needs to be re-performed every 3-4 weeks during the spring and summer.  The easiest and best Pharaoh ant prevention is to use the KM Ant Pro Liquid Bait System.  This system provides outdoor ants a continual feeding source for up to 90+ days without maintenance or refill.  It also provides an exterior barrier to help “intercept” invading ants from off property areas.

RELATED ARTICLE:  KM Ant Pro Liquid Bait System

If You Must Spray Pesticides…..

Fuse Insecticide and Termidor Foam can also be used. These products can work to kill Pharaoh ants, but are not as efficient as baits.  They are also considered moderately toxic making them unsuitable for use in sensitive areas such as hospitals and nurseries.

Insecticide dusts such as Timbor and BorActin can be used inside of walls, voids and cracks and crevices. These products are essentially Boric Acid based, non-repellent and very safe.  Insecticide dusts will not kill the colony and will only kill the worker ants that trail through it.

Some pest control pros will opt for spraying for Pharaoh ants over baiting.  This is primarily due to lack of knowledge on Pharaoh ant biology and habits.  It is also due to the pest control industry’s “spray first” and see what happens mentality.  If you decide to spray pesticides before initiating a baiting program, at least understand that you may be doubling your control efforts down the road.

In large commercial structures such as Hospitals, spraying is neither desired or effective.  Baiting is the only real solution.

Make It Easy

In some cases, Pharaoh ants can be controlled indoors with outdoor baiting only.  This is due to Pharaoh ants continually searching for food sources.  They seldom find appropriate sources indoors, so they must search outdoors too. The KM Ant Pro Liquid Bait System provides ants with a 24/7 suitable food source for up to 90 days without re-baiting or maintenance.  Year round use of this system can aid greatly in getting rid of ants and preventing infestations.

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Kills hard to control aggressive, invasive ants such as Ghost, Odorous, Argentine, Carpenter, Pharaoh, White Footed, Crazy, Fire ants and more!

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By |2020-01-07T09:27:44-06:00January 26th, 2019|Categories: Ants|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |