Pharaoh ants are very small—about 2 mm long. They have light yellow bodies with red and black markings on the abdomen. Pharaoh ants can take advantage of artificial heating in buildings to survive the winter. Infestations commonly occur in food service areas. They will nest in well-protected and hidden areas throughout a structure, but they can also nest outdoors in lawns or gardens in warm climates. Pharaoh ants eat food of all types, but especially sweets. They will also eat other insects.
Pharaoh ants grow from egg to adult in about 38 days. Females live as long as 4 to 12 months, and workers only live up to 10 weeks. Pharaoh ants have multiple queens and are able to move their colonies from place to place when disturbed. Workers can grow from eggs to adults in as little as 38 days and may live for nine to 10 weeks. Queen pharaoh ants can live for four to 12 months, but male pharaoh ants die within three to five weeks of mating. Pharaoh ants begin new colonies by budding. This means that a small group of workers and a single queen migrate from their colony to start a new colony. Pharaoh ants can build nests in walls, cabinet voids, behind baseboards, refrigerator insulation, the hollows of curtain rods, the folds of clothes, sheets and paper and other undisturbed dark spaces. A colony of pharaoh ants will scatter if a toxic substance disturbs it, creating multiple problems where there had been only one. In controlling pharaoh ants, it is often advisable to seek professional help.