Pharaoh Ants / Odorous ants
Pharaoh ants are a lot more difficult to control than other types. It also takes a completely different approach. Positive identification is the most important part of control for this ant. It is known for easily dividing into many smaller colonies throughout the structure if treated with anything other than a bait product. Baiting is the only way to gain control and this may take months even with a dedicated effort.
Colonies range in size from thousands to several hundred thousands of members. Each established colony will contain several hundred reproductive females as well as workers and queens. New colonies are formed through a budding process with as few as 5 workers, 10 pre adults, and 1 queen. As you can tell it does not take much for a new colony to form if the right group of members are broken off from the regular pheromone trails leading to the primary colony. Only about 10% of the workers are out foraging at a time.
They are a tremendous problem in multi unit/floor structures such as apartment complexes, hospitals, prisons, and homes. Their preferred nesting sites are in warm secluded areas in walls, sub floors, electrical and switch plate boxes, cracks, gaps, holes, or similar areas. They commonly use electrical and phone lines as a path to travel within a structure.
They prefer meats and greases and will eat dead or live insects. Other food choices include items containing sugar such as syrup, fruit juices, jellies, and cakes. In hospitals they can be a real nuisance due to the habit of infesting patients wounds, surgical suites and feeding on newborn infant secretions and IV tubes. For trail and nest areas look near water sources including sink and drain areas even potted plants.
Pharaoh/Odorous Ant Control
Control of this ant differs from other ants. Baits are the only method of control. Do not under any circumstances use any spray or liquid residual materials. If a residual is used it will divide up the colony into many smaller colonies throughout the structure.
Odorous House Ant
The odorous house ant is found throughout North America and is a common house-infesting pest in Virginia. This pest is often found foraging for food in long trails over household surfaces and can contaminate food products. Although these ants do not bite or sting, they are a persistent nuisance pest once they begin foraging indoors in large numbers.
Odorous house ants are tiny, about 3 mm in length, and are dark brown to black in color. They can be taxonomically identified by having a single node on the petiole that is hidden from above by the abdomen. However, odorous house ants are most easily identified by the coconut odor that is produced when their bodies are crushed. It is from this odor that they get their name, odorous house ants.
These ants are almost always seen foraging in large numbers. When alarmed, the workers will run about in an erratic fashion with their abdomens raised in the air.
Like all ants, odorous house ants live in social colonies. These colonies are made up of different cast members (workers and reproductives). Male and female reproductives are often called winged swarmers.* Swarmers first appear in the early summer months. Male swarmers will emerge from the parent colony first, followed by the new queens. A few days after mating, males usually die and the mated females begin new colonies. When a new colony is initiated, a queen lays a small batch of eggs and tends the larvae that hatch. The adults that develop become workers and take over colony labor activities. Once a colony has been established, queens will continue egg laying until late fall. During the winter months adults are inactive and the larvae slow their development. In the spring, workers begin to forage and queens resume their egg laying. Larval development and production increases so the colony can grow substantially during spring and summer. Colonies can be very large, ranging in size from several hundred to over 100,000 individuals. In addition, odorous house ant colonies can produce hundreds of laying queens and thousands of workers.
*Ant swarmers are sometimes misidentified as termite swarmers. Ants can be identified by having the front wings larger than the hind wings. Wings on termites, however, are considerably longer than the body and both wings are the same size.
Odorous house ants are very opportunistic and can nest in many different places both indoors and out. Outdoors, odorous house ant nests are usually shallow and may be found just underneath the soil surface. These nests may be found in mulch, soil, debris, logs, stumps, under stones and under plastic outdoor tarps. Indoors, nests are usually found in wall voids, around hot-water pipes and heaters, behind paneling, under carpets or beneath the floor. Sometimes these colonies can become so large that they eventually bud. Budding is a process by which the parent colony splits to form satellite colonies. The satellite colonies remain inner-connected to the parent colony by foraging trails. These trails provide for the exchange of workers, food, and larvae.
Odorous house ants forage both night and day and eat many types of foods. They eat live and dead insects but are also very attracted to sweet foods. They especially like the honeydew that is produced by aphids and mealybugs. Many colonies of odorous house ants tend or herd aphids and mealybugs to collect the honeydew they excrete.