Pharaoh ants are tiny yellow-brown ants, almost transparent in appearance, that live in large colonies inside buildings. They are often associated with large buildings such as hospitals, office blocks and more commonly nowadays in people’s homes, mainly apartments or blocks of flats. These are all preferred places of habitat mainly due to the constant heat supplied by central heating, and Havering has its fair share of tower blocks and office blocks. They are similar in form to common black garden ants, but much smaller, less than half the size in fact. They measure less than one-tenth of an inch, just 2 mm in length. As they are of tropical origin they cannot survive Havering’s wonderful outdoor weather, living inside only.
Pharaoh ants do not bite, but feed primarily on high protein foods, particularly meat, spreading germs from one place, or food, to another. Because of this they can pose a health risk. This is the reason they need to be controlled.
They can infest foodstuffs and can be linked to diseases such as:
The Pharaoh ant colonies can contain many queens, up to 200. An individual colony normally contains between 1,000–2,500 workers, but a high density of nests gives the impression of massive colonies. There is no hostility between neighbouring colonies, this is known as unicoloniality. They reproduce sexually active individuals roughly twice a year in established colonies. A single seed colony can populate a large office block, almost to the exclusion of all other insect pests, in just less than six months.
The treatment and eradication of pharaoh ants can be a long and laborious process depending on the size of building. Spraying an insecticide is inactive as the spray does not reach all areas and it just causes the ants to scatter and build new nests elsewhere in the building. The most common and effective treatment is the laying of baits where they forage. Depending on the amount of activity found and reported, baits will need to be replaced when they are empty, until there is no more feed from them. This may need to be done just twice, but sometimes 3-5 times in heavily populated buildings.
Ant killers that you can buy in the shops won’t kill pharaoh ants. Only professional use insecticides will do the job, so make sure you call a pest control company at the first sign of pharaoh ants.