Pharaoh Ant


Actual Size: 1/16″ to ⅛”

Characteristics: Small; typically light yellow to red, with black markings on the abdomen.

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Wings: No

Habitat: Nests are often located in hard-to-reach areas near moisture, such as kitchens, bathrooms, interior wall voids, under floors, and behind baseboards.


  • Attracted to moisture and will nest in inaccessible areas.
  • Colonies are very large with over 300,000 individuals and multiple queens.
  • Potentially dangerous in hospitals due to their ability to transmit disease organisms.

Pharaoh Ants in Iowa

The pharaoh ant is one of the most persistent and challenging ants to control in Iowa. Due to their enormous colonies, containing up to several million workers and thousands of queens, they are very difficult to eliminate. An invasive species, outnumber native ants, such as carpenter ants and harvester ants, forcing them to leave their habitat and find a new one. When disrupted, pharaoh ant colonies can split to form new colonies. Because of their splintering ability, they can spread throughout homes and buildings rapidly. Indoors, they will nest in any well-protected areas throughout a structure, but prefer lawns and gardens outdoors. 

Pharaoh Ant Habitat

Preferring areas near moisture, nests are located near a water resource, such as sprinkler systems and evaporative cooling units. Inside homes and businesses, pharaoh ant nests are generally located in hard-to-reach locations near moisture, such as bathrooms, kitchens, under floors, and behind baseboards. In hospitals, nursing homes, and food-processing facilities, they appear in kitchens, laundries, boiler rooms, and around heating ducts, toilets, and pipes. Pharaoh ants utilize electrical wiring and plumbing pipes to travel from room to room, searching for foods like sweets, proteins, and live or dead insects.

Pharaoh Ant Behaviors, Threats, or Dangers

Control of pharaoh ants is difficult, due to their nesting in inaccessible areas. Although pharaoh ants do not bite, they are a threat to people and pets as they carry and transmit a number of dangerous pathogens, including salmonella and streptococcus. Due to their small size, they can access almost any space, contaminating food and food prep surfaces in kitchens and cafeterias as they forage. When they invade hospitals and nursing homes, they can contaminate sterile operating rooms, surgical equipment, and recovery rooms. Furthermore, most traditional pest control treatments do not control pharaoh ants. If a pharaoh ant infestation is suspected, it is recommended to contact a professional ant exterminator.