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Pharaoh ants

​​​​​​​​Pharaoh ants live in very small multi-colonies. Their colour ranges from yellow or light brown to red. Pharaoh ants are small (1.5 mm long). They don’t bite.

What are their habits?

They like to eat a lot of things, ranging from syrups to fruits, pies, meats, and dead insects.

Nests are usually found near warm moist areas, in hard to reach areas, like behind baseboards, in furniture, under floors, and between linens. Pharaoh ants can be a problem in businesses that handle food, grocery stores, hospitals, and apartment buildings.

Do they spread disease?

They don’t spread disease. However, because they're so small they can get into even the most secure food packaging. This means that they may contaminate food intended for humans to eat with germs they picked up while travelling through buildings.

What can I do to prevent an infestation?

  • Keep foods in sealed containers. Make sure you clean your floors often.
  • It may help to sealing cracks and crevices, where the ants may live.
  • Have all water taps fixed if they leak—Pharaoh ants like water.
  • Keep pet foods covered when not used—Pharaoh ants love pet food.
  • Keep your house or apartment clean. A messy place gives the Pharaoh ant more places to hide.
  • Don’t leave food out for longer than 2 hours.

Are they hard to get rid of?

Yes. Their colonies are very large. They can hold from thousands to several hundred thousands of ants. There are usually several hundred ants that can reproduce ants in these colonies. If disturbed, the colony may fragment or “bud” to form several new nests. When treating a colony you must make sure your treatment is through so that the colony doesn’t bud.

How do I control them at home?

Pharaoh ants are very hard to get rid of. You can buy insecticidal baits that control ants. Don’t use an insecticidal spray because it might cause the colony to bud. A spray will kill small numbers of ants, but not a colony. If the infestation is serious, using the bait alone may not work.

When to Hire a Professional

If the problem is bad, it’s best to hire a certified pest control professional. Do your research and choose one you can trust.​​​​​​​

The professional should be able to tell you what’s causing the pest problem and come up with a plan to get rid of the pest. Tell the professional if you have children or pets. Several visits may be needed and it may take days or even weeks if the pest problem is really bad.

If you rent, you landlord must, by law, keep the home pest-free and hire a professional as needed. If your landlord doesn’t correct the problem, call Health Link at 811 to register a complaint for a health inspector.

To learn more, call your nearest Environmental Health office.

Current as of: March 15, 2018

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services