What are these Pharaoh Ants doing in my kitchen?
What are these Pharaoh Ants doing in my kitchen?
What you are likely experiencing is Pharaoh ants. These very small golden coloured ants (Pharaoh ants) are among the more challenging pests to eliminate and have spikes in numbers in Toronto and the GTA. This is definitely NOT a DIY project and should only be tackled by a trained professional.
Over the last few years, our office has been contacted by many College and University Student Housing Residences that have encountered Pharaoh ants. Even frustrated homeowners have reached out looking for help. ’m honestly proud to say at GreenLeaf Pest Control we are excellent at Pharaoh management. We have worked for years at developing a systematic protocol to achieve management and elimination. Countless hours in education, training, and collaborating with top entomologists is our secret to success. Pharaoh ants will not survive our harsh Canadian winter outdoors, but they may forage outside for food during the warm months.
In Toronto and the GTA, Pharaoh ants have become a common pest in apartment buildings, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. Any large metropolitan area that is highly populated and culturally diverse will likely experience these issues. Having said that, we are now seeing Ontario-wide Pharaoh Ant distribution. From Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, London, Toronto to Pickering and beyond.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PHARAOH ANTS IN STUDENT HOUSING AND WHY NOW?
I’ve heard all the theories pointing to fast food deliveries, beer, and the recent uptake in marijuana consumption. Personally, I don’t think we can blame any single factor. Although we can’t seem to pinpoint the exact distribution process, we believe there could be many “common denominators” as to why these ants are so quick to spread. Unless local restaurants have pharaoh ants as well, it’s unlikely students are introducing pharaoh ants into the building through takeout. It’s possible but unlikely.
It’s more likely that the ants are spreading between floors and buildings with infested items that are moved around. These could be items that the students use frequently such as backpacks, books, etc. Or students from infested dorms visit students in non-infested dorms and the ants hitchhike. But let’s not just blame the students, custodians, and staff also move between floors and/or between buildings with their carts, trash bags, equipment, etc.
I have visited many of these buildings and scratched my head thinking….how did these little buggers get in here and why now?
RECENT CASE STUDY ON DISTRIBUTION:
GreenLeaf Pest Control has a contract with an apartment building. The building has commercial units on the main floor that consist of food and non-food retail and at the time GreenLeaf was not servicing the commercial units. In 2019 we were called in to identify some small ants in two units; Pharaoh ants. After some investigation, we determined that several other apartment units had issues as well. This included one resident who also owned the commercial unit on the main floor. Did I mention that the business is a Pizza joint? *alarm bells go off* We subsequently investigated the pizza place and found several pharaoh ant colonies in the false ceiling, dish pit area, and around the pizza box storage *more alarm bells everyone* Well, many people who ordered pizza likely got some hitchhiker’s delivered to their apartments. With more investigating we discovered two other commercial food units that had ants as well and about 70% of the apartment building had issues. It took our team almost one year of very precise and methodical treatments to clean up the ant issue. They may be small ants but are unfortunately a big problem.
I HAVE PHARAOH ANTS! AM I DOOMED?
Since control strategies for Pharaoh ants are different from most other ants, be sure to collect samples of the ants and have them identified by a professional before starting a control program. Use the identification clues given below, or send a specimen to your local pest control company for confirmation.
Pharaoh ants have five important identifying characteristics:
- Their small size, only about 1/16” long;
- The color of pharaoh ant workers is yellow/gold. (reproductives are darker in color.)
- The antennae have a total of 12 segments; the last 3 segments are enlarged to form a “club.” (A 10-segmented antenna ending in a 2-segmented club belongs to a thief ant).
- There are two nodes on the pedicel (the thin area between the thorax and abdomen).
- The Pharaoh Ant lacks a prominent stinger at the end of its abdomen.
Most ant species prefer moist areas to nest and hide eggs. Typically, kitchens and bathrooms are the first rooms for the infestation. Use your flashlight to look for ants behind or under refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, dishwashers, sinks, and cabinets. Ants are also found in or around floor drains, inside the motor areas of refrigerators and microwaves, behind wallpaper, and in cracks and crevices in cabinets and around walls.
If you are only finding a couple of ants here and there, do the honey and peanut butter (Nut Allergy Alert) test to help attract the ants. This will help you lure ants to one spot so you can see where they are coming from and help detect what type of ant bait would work best in your ant treatment program.
Fire Ant Treatment with Honey/Peanut Butter Test
- Place a jar lid or saucer near the area where you have noticed some ant activity
- Place a 1/2 teaspoon of honey on one end of the lid or saucer and 1/2 teaspoon of peanut butter on the other end.
- Leave the honey and peanut butter in place until the ants start trailing
- Ants tend to be more nocturnal, so you may need to engage the help of your alarm to wake yourself up in the night.
- If the ants are eating just the honey, a liquid or gel bait would be a good bait choice. If the ants are more attracted to the peanut butter, a granule or paste bait would be a good choice. You should note that as an ant colony grows and changes their nutritional needs will change. At some point, they may only accept sweet or gel bait and at other times they may only accept protein or granule baits.
- Baiting is the only effective method for elimination of control of Pharaoh Ants
- Residual spray treatments are not effective with Pharaoh Ants because they result in the colony budding and contaminating bait stations.
Baits must be placed systematically (not randomly) in order to be effective. Effective bait placement locations include: in corners where two walls meet, along the edges of door moldings and baseboards, and in the corners of window sills.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Mackie aka Mr. Know Bugs is the VP – Quality Assurance at Greenleaf Pest Control. With over 24 years in the pest protection industry, Mackie is a Toronto, Oakville, Barrie, and Newmarket pest control expert. Daniel Mackie is well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. In his free time, he is an avid gardener and beekeeper. According to Mackie: “We are Protectors of Public Health”