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How to Get Rid of Pharaoh Ants

Also known as sugar ants, these tiny pests can be hard to control.

Most of us give little thought to indoor ants ÔÇô until we have them. Then it becomes an all-out mission to find them, get rid of them, and keep them from coming back.

And if there's one type of household ant that's especially problematic, it's the pharaoh ant. Also known as "sugar ants," pharaoh ants are one of the most widespread ant species. In fact, they can be found in homes on every continent except Antarctica. While they prefer warmer temperatures like those found in the South, they'll withstand the North's colder climate by nesting in heated buildings. Pharaoh ants are also an issue because they have a keen ability to nest in places that are hard to get to, plus they tend to multiply quickly. It's no wonder they have a reputation for being difficult to control.

The good news is, you don't have to live with them. Here's how to identify pharaoh ants, find their nesting places, and control an infestation.

What Pharaoh Ants Look Like

Many ants have similar physical traits, making it easy to mistake one species for another. Pharaoh ants are often confused with another type of "sugar ant," the Argentine ant. One difference is that Argentine ants are as content to live outdoors are they are to be inside, while pharaoh ants prefer to be indoors.

  • Yellow or orange color with darker abdomens
  • No spine
  • Well-developed eyes
  • 1/16 of an inch long (about as thick as a nickel)

Female ants can lay more than 400 eggs over a lifetime. Unlike other ant species, pharaoh ants breed continuously as long as they're in a heated environment like a home or office. Their colonies are large (up to 300,000 ants), including several queens, winged males, workers, and immatures.

Where Pharaoh Ants Hide

Pharaoh ants especially like to nest in humid, inaccessible areas near food and/or water. Bathrooms and kitchens are particular favorites. For the hardest-to-reach cracks and crevices, use Ortho┬« Home Defense┬« Insect Killer For Cracks & Crevices, a foam that spreads deep into the places you can't see but where ants crawl and hide. It will not kill the ants already in there, but create a barrier to keep others out.

Look for pharaoh ant colonies in small, empty spaces like this:

  • Within walls, ceilings, or attic
  • Behind baseboards, window sills, and switch plates
  • Under door frames and floors
  • Around hot water pipes, sinks, and toilets
  • Between sheets of paper, linens, or laundry
  • In and around furniture or food

Rather than swarm, pharaoh ants migrate. Sometimes a queen, along with a few workers, eggs, larvae, and pupae, will migrate to another area and set up a new colony. This migration pattern, known as "budding," may occur because of overcrowding in the nest, changes in temperature, or exposure to an ant repellent.

Kill ants, help prevent budding, and create an indoor bug barrier with Ortho┬« Home Defense Max┬« Indoor Insect Killer with Extended Reach Comfort Wand┬«. When used on nonporous indoor surfaces, it will control pharaoh ants for up to 12 months. As with all products, be sure to follow label directions.

What Pharaoh Ants Eat

Pharaoh ants are omnivorous, meaning their diet is a mixed variety of plants and animals. Though they prefer sweets like jellies, honey, syrups, soft drinks, and fruit juices, as well as fatty foods like peanut butter, shortening, liver, and bacon, pharaoh ants make a meal out of anything and everything. Dead bugs, grease, shoe polish, pet foodÔÇönone of it is off limits for these pests. If you see pharaoh ants attacking a sugary spill, spray them with Ortho┬« Home Defense┬« Ant, Roach & Spider Killer2. It will kill the ants without staining and can be used anywhere you spy these pests.

How to Kill Pharaoh Ants

To get rid of the rest of the pharaoh ants in your homeÔÇöand prevent others from coming inÔÇöcreate a bug barrier by applying Ortho┬« Home Defense Max┬« Indoor Insect Killer with Extended Reach Comfort Wand┬« around the inside perimeter of the house. Following directions, spray around doors, windows, and baseboards. Pay special attention to bathrooms and the kitchen, but don't forget to also apply around the perimeters of others rooms, including closets and the pantry. It dries fast and leaves no odor or stain, so you won't see any trace of it, but its long-lasting barrier will do the job of keeping pharaoh ants and other common listed household bugs away.

Here are a few other things you can do to help control pharaoh ants:

  • Seal gaps, caulk cracks, and eliminate crevices, especially in places where you store food.
  • Keep sweets, fats, and pet food in tightly closed containers, making sure to wipe down the outside to remove spills or traces of food.
  • Rinse soft drink bottles and cans, then recycle or store them outside your home.
  • Wipe up sticky surfaces, spills, grease, and oil.
  • Take out the trash daily, and wipe down trash cans and garbage bins regularly.
  • Kill ants outside before they come inside with Ortho┬« Home Defense┬« Insect Killer for Lawn & Landscape Ready-To-Spray. Use on lawn, trees, shrubs, and around porches, patios, and stored lumber, where ants like to hide.

Remember, pharaoh ants are social pests that typically nest in the far recesses of your home. That means you could literally have thousands of them living with you, just out of sight. By following these tips, however, you can keep up with keeping them out, and kill pharaoh ants where they live.