The pharaoh ant is just one of 10,000 to 15,000 species that live on the globe. He understood the advantages of social life before a man. This long-whiskered baby without a team of relatives is doomed to death. Alone, he becomes lethargic, lazy and extremely slow, but in a team he is smart and energetic. He is thermophilic and settles where the temperature is not lower than 20 °C. And they found these conditions in people’s homes.
Origin of the species and description
For the first time, these reddish crumbs were found in the tombs of the pharaohs. They were located on mummies, where they climbed in search of food. After being caught, they were handed over for description to the Swede Carl Linnaeus, a naturalist who described this insect in 1758, calling it the pharaoh ant. He put forward the version that Egypt and the neighboring territories of North Africa are his homeland. This animal has 128 species of close relatives, of which 75 are native to East Africa.
Video: Pharaoh Ant
In Europe, the pharaoh ant was found in 1828 in London, where an illegal migrant nestled comfortably in dwellings under fireplaces. By 1862, the ants reached Russia, they were found in Kazan. In 1863 they were caught in Austria. Somewhere around this time, insects were found in the harbors of America. Gradually, pharaoh ants from port cities penetrated deeper and deeper into the continents. In Moscow, the creation appeared in 1889.
In Australia, this species was especially successful. This fact is especially curious due to the presence of a very aggressive ant family, Iridomyrmex. These ants are able to quickly find food sources and prevent other ant species from accessing them. However, Monomorium species, despite their relatively placid nature and small size, are able to thrive even in areas dominated by Iridomyrmex.
This success can be attributed to their efficient foraging strategy and proper use of poisonous alkaloids. With these two behaviors, Monomorium species can quickly monopolize and protect a food source.
Appearance and Features
This is one of the smallest ants, the size of the working individual of which is only 1.5-2 mm. The body is reddish-brown or slightly tanned with a darker belly. Each compound eye has 20 facets, and each lower jaw has four teeth. Paired longitudinal and metanotal grooves are clearly distinguishable. There are no “standing hairs” on the dorsal spine. Worker pharaoh ants have a non-functional stinger used to generate pheromones.
Male are about 3mm long, black, winged (but do not fly). The queens are dark red and 3.6–5 mm long. They initially have wings that are lost shortly after mating. Pharaoh ants (like all insects) have three main body regions: a thorax, head, and abdomen, and three pairs of articulated legs that are attached to the thorax.
Interesting fact: Pharaoh ants use their antennae to perceive vibrations and improve vision in dark places. The little hairs that may be present on their abdomens help them feel the weather better.
Finally, like all arthropods, they contain a rigid exoskeleton and additionally have a waxy cuticle to prevent drying out. Arthropod skeletons are made of chitin, a polymeric derivative of starch, similar to our fingernails. Antennal segments ending in a distinct club with three gradually elongated segments. Females and workers have 12-segmented antennae with a distinct 3-segmented club, while males have 13-segmented antennae.
Where does the pharaoh ant live?
Pharaoh Ants — it is a tropical species that now flourishes almost everywhere, even in temperate regions, provided that buildings have central heating. The habitat of the insect is not limited to cold climates. This ant is originally from Egypt, but migrated to many regions of the globe. In the 20th century, he moved with things and products across all five continents on cars, ships, and planes.
The variety of habitats that the pharaoh ant can live in is amazing! Inhabits damp, warm and dark places. In northern climates, their nests are often found in households, namely spaces in walls between studs and insulation that offer warm breeding grounds relatively hidden from the human eye. Ant Pharoah — this is a big nuisance for the owners of the dwelling, the number of which is difficult to influence.
Pharaoh ants occupy ready-made cavities:
- crevices in the foundation and floor;
- piers houses;
- space under wallpaper;
- folds in clothing;
- equipment, etc.
This species forms diffuse nests, i.e. one anthill occupies a large area (within one household) in the form of several interconnected nests. Each nest contains several egg-laying females. Ants often migrate to neighboring nests or create new ones when conditions deteriorate.
Interesting fact: Pharaoh ants were brought to Greenland, where these insects had never been found before. In 2013, a fully capable male of this species was found 2 km from the airport.
Pharaoh ants are difficult to fight, because the pest control perimeter must capture the entire anthill. It is easier to prevent the penetration of a harmful insect into the home by sealing the cracks and blocking their contact with food. Historically, kerosene has been used for this purpose.
Now you know where the historical homeland of pharaoh ants is. Let’s see what to feed these insects.
What does the pharaoh ant eat?
Insects use a feedback system. Every morning the scouts will look for food. When an individual finds it, it instantly returns to the nest. After that, several ants follow the trail of a successful scout to a food source. Soon a large group is near the food. It is believed that scouts use both chemical and visual signals to mark the way and return back.
The pharaoh ant is omnivorous and its broad diet reflects a tolerance for a variety of habitats. They eat sweets: jelly, sugar, honey, cakes and bread. They also enjoy fatty foods such as pies, butter, liver, and bacon. Believe it or not, fresh medical bandages are attracting these insects to hospitals. Pharaoh ants can also get into shoe polish. Ants can be found enjoying the flesh of a recently deceased insect such as a cockroach or cricket. They use trails made by workers to find food.
An omnivore’s primary diet consists of:
- body fluids;
- insect carrion;
- terrestrial arthropods;
- vegetative fluids;
If the amount of food is excessive, pharaoh ants will store excess food in the stomachs of a unique caste of workers. Members of this group have huge stomachs and can regurgitate stored food when needed. Thus, the colony has reserves in case of a shortage of food.
Character and lifestyle features
Like other hymenoptera, pharaoh ants have a haplo-diploid genetic system. This means that when the female mates, she retains the sperm. As the eggs move through her reproductive ducts, they can either be fertilized, becoming a diploid female, or not fertilized, becoming a haploid male. Because of this unusual system, females are more closely related to their sisters than to their own offspring. This may explain the presence of worker ants. Worker ants include: food gatherers, babysitters for developing eggs, and nest guards/watchers.
The nest contains workers, a queen or multiple queens, and male/female winged ants. Working — barren females, while males tend to be only winged, with the main function of reproduction. Female and male winged ants also provide general nest protection. The queen becomes a mechanical egg maker with an extended lifespan. Having lost her wings five days after mating, the queen quickly sits down to lay her eggs.
Pharaoh ant colonies have many queens. The ratio of queens to workers varies and depends on the size of the colony. An individual colony usually contains 1000–2500 workers, but often the high density of nests gives the impression of massive colonies. A small colony will have more queens than workers. This ratio is controlled by the workers of the colony. The larvae that produce workers have distinctive hairs throughout, while the larvae that will produce sexually active males or females are hairless.
It is believed that workers may use these distinguishing features to identify larvae. Nursing workers may eat the larvae to ensure a favorable caste ratio. The decision to cannibalize is largely determined by the existing caste ratio. For example, if many fertile queens are present, the workers may eat the sexual larvae. Caste relations are controlled in an attempt to increase the growth of the colony.
Social structure and reproduction
Pharaoh ants have copulatory organs for fertilization. Once a new queen has mated with at least one male (sometimes more), she will store the sperm in her sperm uterus and use it to fertilize her eggs for the rest of her life.
< em>Interesting fact: Pharaoh ant copulation is painful for the female. The penile valve contains sharp teeth that are fixed on the thick, soft cuticular layer in the female. This method of copulation also has an evolutionary basis. The prongs ensure that sex lasts long enough for sperm to be transferred. Also, pain inflicted on a female may, in a way, reduce her desire to copulate again.
Like most ants, sexual castes (capable of reproduction) copulate in “nuptial flight”. This is when environmental conditions are favorable to encourage mating, and males and virgin queens fly into the air at the same time to find a mate. After a while, the males die and the queens lose their wings and find a place to start forming their colony. The queen can produce eggs in batches of 10 to 12 at a time. Eggs mature up to 42 days.
The queen herself takes care of the first brood. After the first generation matures, they will take care of the queen and all future generations as the colony grows. In addition to the founding of a new colony by a newly minted queen, colonies can also “begin” on their own. Namely, part of the existing colony is transferred to another “new” nesting site along with the new queen — often the daughter of the parent colony’s queen.
Natural enemies of the pharaoh ant
Ant larvae grow and develop within 22 to 24 days, passing through several stages – growth phases, which end with a molt. When the larvae are ready, they enter the pupal stage in order to undergo a complete metamorphosis, which is completed in 9-12 days. The pupal stage is the most vulnerable to the environment and predators. In the course of evolution, ants have learned to bite and sting very sensitively.
What enemies are dangerous for these crumbs:
- the Bears. They rake anthills with their paws and feast on larvae, adults.
- hedgehogs. Sufficiently omnivorous animals, so they will arrange a snack near the anthill.
- frogs. These amphibians are also not averse to eating pharaoh ants.
- birds. Working ants and queens that have left the anthill can get into the tenacious beaks of birds.
- moles, shrews. Prey is caught underground. Laying a “tunnel”, larvae and adults can eat.
- lizards. They can catch prey anywhere.
- ant lion. Waiting patiently at the insect den.
The microscopic bacteria that these ants can carry are sometimes pathogenic, including Salmonella, Pseudomonas, Clostridium, and Staphylococcus. Also, pharaoh ants can annoy the owners of the house, climbing onto food and dishes left unattended. Therefore, the owners of dwellings at other institutions seek to get rid of this neighborhood as soon as possible.
Population and species status
This ant has no special status and is not threatened by anything. A single seed colony can populate a large office block, nearly eliminating all other pests in less than six months. It is very difficult to get rid of and control them, because several colonies can break into smaller groups during the destruction programs, only to be repopulated later.
Pharaoh ants have become a serious pest in almost all types of buildings. They can eat a wide variety of foods, including fat, sugary foods, and dead insects. They may also gnaw holes in silk, rayon, and rubber products. Nests can be very small, making detection even more difficult. These insects are commonly found in voids on walls, under floors, or in various types of furniture. In homes, they are often found in bathrooms or near food.
Fun fact: It is not recommended to kill pharaoh ants with insecticidal sprays, because this will disperse insects and break up colonies .
The recommended method for eliminating pharaoh ants is to use species-attractive baits. Modern baits use insect growth regulators (IGRs) as the active ingredient. The ants are attracted to the bait due to the food content and take it back to the nest. Within a few weeks, the IGR prevents the production of worker ants and sterilizes the queen. Renewing the baits once or twice may be necessary.
Pharaoh ants, like other ants, can also be killed with prepared baits of 1% boric acid and water with sugar. If these methods do not help, you should contact the experts.