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Pharaoh ants

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

Where do they live?

Pharaoh ants like to be near warm, moist areas. They might make their nests:

  • in hard to reach areas, like behind baseboards
  • in furniture
  • under floors
  • between linens

Pharaoh ants like to eat a lot of things, like syrups, fruits, meats, and dead insects. They can be a problem in businesses that handle food, grocery stores, hospitals, and apartment buildings.

Do they spread disease?

Because they're so small, they can get into even the most secure food packaging. This means that they may contaminate food (make the food unsafe) with germs they pick up travelling through buildings.

What can I do to prevent an infestation?

When Pharaoh ants come into a building and make more ants (reproduce), it’s called an infestation. Here’s what you can do to stop an infestation from happening:

  • Keep food in sealed containers. 
  • Seal cracks and crevices where the ants can live.
  • Fix water taps if they leak—Pharaoh ants like water.
  • Keep pet food covered when your pets aren’t eating—Pharaoh ants love pet food.
  • Keep your home clean and clean your floors often. A messy home gives Pharaoh ants more places to hide.
  • Don’t leave food out for longer than 2 hours.

Are they hard to get rid of?

Pharaoh ants are very hard to get rid of. Their colonies are large. They can hold thousands to hundreds of thousands of ants, and usually have several hundred ants that can reproduce. If you disturb a colony, it may bud (split up) to form several new nests. You have to use the right treatment on Pharaoh ants so the colony doesn’t bud.

How do I control them at home?

You can buy insecticidal baits that control ants. But if the infestation is serious, using the bait alone may not work.

Don’t use an insecticidal spray because it might cause the colony to bud. A spray will kill some ants, but not a colony.

When should I 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. The professional may need to make several visits, and it may take days or even weeks. Tell the professional if you have children or pets.

If you rent, your 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, contact Alberta Health Services Environmental Public Health.


Current as of: April 26, 2021

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services