While cockroaches, termites and flies are among the most common insect pests of homes and buildings, homeowners across the US consistently rank ants as the most frequent home-invading insect pests. One of the most troublesome ant pest species, Monomorium pharaonis, is well distributed across the globe, and many pest control professionals agree that this species is the most difficult ant pest to eliminate from infested homes. M. pharaonis is more commonly known as the “Pharaoh ant,” and it is one of the most frequent home-invading ant pests throughout New York state.
Pharaoh ant workers are relatively small in size at only 1.5 to 2 mm in length, and their body color varies from light brown to yellow, and sometimes reddish-brown. Their abdomen is often darker in color, and while they possess a stinger, it is too small to penetrate human skin. Colonies consist of queens, workers, males, eggs and larvae, and mature colonies contain hundreds of thousands of individual ants. Unlike most ants, Pharaoh ants are not known to swarm; instead, mating takes place within the nest between a multitude of queens and reproductive males.
Pharaoh ants are difficult to control for several reasons, one of which has to do with their habit of “budding.” Budding occurs when a few workers and a queen break off from the parent nest in order to establish secondary nests. Parent nests generally remain outdoors, but workers and additional queens often invade homes in order to establish secondary nests within inaccessible locations, most notably within wall voids. When additional queens are not available, workers can develop reproductive females from the brood. Large colonies generally contain hundreds of reproductive females.
Unfortunately, Pharaoh ants have the ability to survive numerous pest control methods, and they often establish several indoor nesting sites throughout entire homes and buildings. For example, one infestation saw Pharaoh ants establish nests on seven different floors of a hospital. These tiny ants are often found infesting pantries and kitchen cupboards where they both consume and contaminate stored food products. Several baiting systems are marketed for Pharaoh ant control within buildings, but numerous bait stations must be placed near every possible nesting site within infested homes, and baits usually take a while before they work to successfully eliminate all hidden nests. Using insecticide aerosols to address Pharaoh ant infestations causes nests to splinter into several additional nests. At the moment, baits containing insect growth regulators are the preferred method of Pharaoh ant eradication within homes and buildings.
Has your home ever been invaded by exceptionally tiny ants?