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Pharaoh Ant

Danger/Damage

Since pharaoh ants are attracted to food such as sweets and meats, they can carry bacteria through food contamination.

In hospitals, they have been found with more than a dozen pathogenic bacteria as they feed on and around wounds and may carry disease germs from one patient to another.


Did you know?

Pharaoh ants get their name from the mistaken belief that they were one of the plagues of Egypt during the time of Pharaohs. This species is thought to be native to Africa but is found throughout North America.

Pharaoh ants are attracted to sweets and meats and can carry bacteria from one area to another. But at only 1.5 mm long, the small size of the pharaoh ant makes it difficult to see.


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Pharaoh ants are yellow, light brown, to reddish, and measure 1.5-2 mm (1/16 – 1/12 inch) long. Workers are all one size (monomorphic). Their small size makes them difficult to see with a visual inspection.


Pharaoh ants are found in commercial food handling establishments such as hotels, grocery stores, and hospitals. Inside, they nest in warm, humid areas near food and water sources. Nests are usually located in inaccessible areas such as wall voids, behind baseboards, in furniture, and under floors. These ants often use electrical and telephone wires as a highway system to travel through walls and between floorboards.

Outside, Pharaoh ants are typically found in shaded areas or under debris. They cannot survive outdoors year-round in the northern regions of the country.


Pharaoh ants can grow from egg to adult within 38 days. Their colonies have multiple queens, and when disturbed, they can easily migrate to start a new colony with one of the queens. Queen pharaoh ants live up to a year while male pharaoh ants live up to a few weeks after mating.

Colonies of Pharaoh ants number in the thousands to several hundred-thousand. If disturbed, members of the colony will migrate to new locations to establish several new colonies through a process called budding.


  1. Pharaoh ants have been implicated in the spread of more than a dozen disease pathogens including salmonella and Streptococcus pyogenes.
  2. They are notorious for being a major nuisance in hospitals where they can enter wounds, enter IV bottles, and can sometimes even seek moisture from the mouths of sleeping infants and patients.

What do pharaoh ants eat?

Pharaoh ants feed a variety of food sources, sweets, oils, and proteins. They will also eat other dead insects.

Do pharaoh ants spread disease?

Yes. Pharaoh ants can carry bacteria from one area to another.

In hospitals, they have been found with more than a dozen pathogenic bacteria as they feed on and around wounds and may carry disease germs from one patient to another.

Are pharaoh ants difficult to control?

Yes. Pharaoh ant colonies are large and may contain thousands to several hundred thousand ants.

There are usually several hundred reproductive ants in these colonies, and if disturbed, the colony may fragment bud to form several new nests.

You must ensure a thorough treatment so budding doesn’t occur.

What can I do to prevent an infestation of pharaoh ants?

  1. Seal all possible entry points around the house and small openings and cracks around doors and windows.
  2. Keep counters and floors clean and free of crumbs.
  3. Store food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly in sealed receptacles.
  4. Eliminate sources of standing water outside and use a dehumidifier indoors to prevent moisture buildup.
  5. Keep tree branches and shrubbery well-trimmed and away from the house.
  6. Store firewood at least 20 feet away from your home.
  7. Consider working with a pest professional to employ a preventative pest management plan.

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