Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Monomorium pharaonis
(pharaoh ant)

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Datasheet

Monomorium pharaonis (pharaoh ant)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 06 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Monomorium pharaonis
  • Preferred Common Name
  • pharaoh ant
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Monomorium pharaonis the pharaoh ant) is native to Africa and has successfully invaded areas on every continent except Antarctica. It is concentrated in tropical regions but is also commonly found in temperate zo...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Monomorium pharaonis (pharaoh ant); adult. Ukumehame, Maui. February 20, 2001.
TitleAdult
CaptionMonomorium pharaonis (pharaoh ant); adult. Ukumehame, Maui. February 20, 2001.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Monomorium pharaonis (pharaoh ant); adult. Ukumehame, Maui. February 20, 2001.
AdultMonomorium pharaonis (pharaoh ant); adult. Ukumehame, Maui. February 20, 2001.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Monomorium pharaonis (Linnaeus, 1758)

Preferred Common Name

  • pharaoh ant

Other Scientific Names

  • Atta minuta Jerdon
  • Diplorhoptrum domesticum (Shuckard)
  • Formica antiguensis Fabricius
  • Formica pharaonis Linnaeus
  • Monomorium domestica (Shuckard)
  • Monomorium pharaonis (Linnaeus)
  • Monomorium vastator (Smith)
  • Myrmica (Monomorium) contigua Smith
  • Myrmica (Monomorium) fragilis Smith
  • Myrmica (Monomorium) vastator Smith
  • Myrmica (Myrmecina) domestica Shuckard
  • Myrmica fragilis Smith
  • Myrmica pharaonis (Linnaeus)
  • Myrmica unifasciata Bostock
  • Myrmica vastator Smith

International Common Names

  • English: ant, Egyptian red; ant, little red; pharaoh, ant
  • Spanish: hormiga cosechadora
  • French: fourmi moissonneuse; fourmi pharaon

Local Common Names

  • Denmark: faraomyre
  • Germany: Ameise, Ernte-; Ameise, Knoten-; Ameise, Pharao-
  • Italy: Formica radunasemi
  • Netherlands: Pharaomier
  • Norway: faraomaur
  • Sweden: faraomyra

EPPO code

  • MONOPH (Monomorium pharaonis)

Summary of Invasiveness

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Monomorium pharaonis the pharaoh ant) is native to Africa and has successfully invaded areas on every continent except Antarctica. It is concentrated in tropical regions but is also commonly found in temperate zones within suitable human infrastructure, especially buildings associated with the distribution or storage of food. Due to Monomorium pharaonis' ability to act as a vector for some bacterial human pathogens, its presence in hospitals is of great concern as it may increase infection rates.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Hymenoptera
  •                         Family: Formicidae
  •                             Genus: Monomorium
  •                                 Species: Monomorium pharaonis

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Apparently the name "pharaoh ant" originated from Linnaeus' mistaken impression that these ants were one of the biblical plagues during the time of Egyptian pharoahs (Riley 1889, in Ebeling 1996).

Description

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Workers of the pharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis) are approximately 2mm in length and have body colours ranging from light-brown to red. The males are the same size as the workers but are black in colour. The queens are 4mm in length and slightly darker than the workers (Nickerson and Harris 2003).

Please click on AntWeb: Monomorium pharaonis for more images and assistance with identification. The AntWeb image comparison tool lets you compare images of ants at the subfamily, genus, species or specimen level. You may also specify which types of images you would like to compare: head, profile, dorsal, or label.
Please see PaDIL (Pests and Diseases Image Library) Species Content Page Ants: Pharaoh ant for high quality diagnostic and overview images.

Please follow this link for the information sheet on Monomorium pharaonis prepared as part of 'The invasive ant risk assessment project', Harris et al. 2005., for Biosecurity New Zealand by Landcare Research.

Please follow this link for a fully illustrated Lucid key to common invasive ants [Hymenoptera: Formicidae] of the Pacific Island region [requires the most recent version of Java installed]. The factsheet on Monomorium pharaonis contains an overview, diagnostic features, comparision charts, images, nomenclature and links. (Sarnat, 2008).

Distribution

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Native range: The pharaoh ant (Monomorium pharaonis) is native to West Africa.
Introduced range: It has been introduced into Asia (including Japan, India and Saudi Arabia), Australia, Europe, and North, Central and South America. It has been introduced onto some islands in the Indian Ocean (including Madagascar) and the Pacific Ocean (including New Zealand and some islands in the Hawaiian and Galapagos archipelagoes) (McGlynn 1999).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

ChinaPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
-SichuanPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
IndiaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
JapanPresentIntroduced1920s Invasive ISSG, 2011
KuwaitPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
OmanPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
QatarPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
Saudi ArabiaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011

Africa

CameroonPresentISSG, 2011
Central African RepublicPresentISSG, 2011
EgyptPresent
GabonPresentISSG, 2011
MadagascarPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
SeychellesPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroduced Not invasive ISSG, 2011

North America

BermudaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
CanadaPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
-ManitobaPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
USAPresentCAB Abstracts
-CaliforniaPresentCAB Abstracts
-FloridaPresentCAB Abstracts
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
-IllinoisPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
-OhioPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
-WashingtonPresentCAB Abstracts
-WisconsinPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
Trinidad and TobagoPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001

South America

BrazilPresent
-Sao PauloPresent
EcuadorPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-Galapagos IslandsPresentISSG, 2011
PeruPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001

Europe

AustriaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
Czech RepublicPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
Czechoslovakia (former)PresentCAB Abstracts
DenmarkPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
Former USSRPresentCAB Abstracts
GermanyPresentCAB Abstracts
GreecePresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
HungaryPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
ItalyPresentCAB Abstracts
NetherlandsPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
PolandPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
PortugalPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-MadeiraPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
SpainPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
SwitzerlandPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
UKPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
-England and WalesPresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001
UkrainePresentCAB ABSTRACTS Data Mining 2001

Oceania

AustraliaPresentIntroduced Invasive ISSG, 2011
New ZealandPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011
TongaPresentIntroducedISSG, 2011

Habitat

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Many introduced ants, including Monomorium spp., are restricted to a tropical or subtropical climates. The pharaoh ant (Monomorium pharaonis) is not known to invade regions with cold climates although it may be associated with human infrastructure, including climate-controlled buildings. Although its abundance in cold climates will be restricted, its continued presence represents a potential to spread to locations more suitable for ant colonisation (McGlynn 1999; Holway et al. 2002).

Nests are rarely found outdoors but can be found almost anywhere indoors (including light sockets, potted plants and wall cracks or crevices). They typically nest close to sources of warmth and water and many investigators have noted this tendency (Mallis 1969, in Ebeling 1996).

The effect of climatic and temperature variables on ant abundance have been suggested as important when planning eradication programmes in cold to temperate regions. In laboratory conditions the time needed to eradicate pharaoh ant populations depended on the temperature; at 26°C eradication took 3 weeks; at 8°C an eradication could take only 30 minutes (Berndt 1980). Temperatures near 0°C lead to the eradication of large colonies within 6 days, which lead the author to the suggestion that the cold temperatures of the European winter could be exploited for aiding eradications of the pharaoh ant.

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Disturbed areas Present, no further details
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details

Host Animals

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Animal nameContextLife stageSystem
Psammotermes hybostoma

Biology and Ecology

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Nutrition
Pharaoh ants (Monomorium pharaonis) are primarily nocturnal, feeding on a variety of foods, including fats, proteins, carbohydrates and small insects. Pharaoh ants will recruit to a number of household foods, including sweets, honey, cakes, greasy foods (such as butter) and fatty foods (such as meats) (Antonelli and Akre 2003).
In laboratory trials Haack and colleagues (1995) investigated the comparative recruitment to and distribution (among workers and larvae) of protein, lipid and carbohydrate. The results were as follows:
A) Recruitment: Liquid carbohydrate was recruited too quickly, while solid carbohydrate (table sugar) was not actively recruited. Corn starch was ignored by foraging workers. Workers actively recruited to sucrose solution and solid protein (moist egg yolk powder) foods after two days of starvation, but a seven day period of starvation was necessary for active recruitment to lipids such as peanut oil (indicating that lipids may not be rapidly depleted in the metabolism of the pharaoh ant).
B) Distribution: Peanut oil and sucrose solution baits were rapidly distributed among adult workers. Peanut oil was distributed rapidly to all larval stages, while the sucrose solution and solid protein baits were distributed primarily to older larvae.

    Reproduction
    A queen can lay up to 400 eggs in her lifetime and produces about 10 to 12 eggs per reproductive event. Larval instar development is cyclical at the colony level, suggesting reproductive bursts followed by lower reproductive activity of the queens (Alvares et al. 1993). The species is highly polygynous and workers are sterile. Unlike many ant species, M. pharaonis does not need to leave the nest to mate.

      Lifecycle stages
      A study by Alvares and colleagues (1993) found that total egg to adult development period of the pharaoh ant (Monomorium pharaonis) ranged from 25 days to 54 days (greater than the respective minimum and maximum lengths reported in European populations). Eggs hatch within a week, and the larval period lasts up to 19 days. Queens live for about 12 months and non-sterile males die about 4 weeks after mating. A colony can have a population of several hundred thousand. When overcrowding becomes a problem a queen may take a few workers and immature ants and build a new nest, a mechanism known as budding or colony fission.

        Natural enemies

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        Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
        Achaearanea tepidariorum Predator
        Bacillus thuringiensis thuringiensis Pathogen

        Pathway Causes

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        CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
        Horticulture Yes

        Pathway Vectors

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        VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
        Bulk freight or cargo Yes

        Impact Summary

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        CategoryImpact
        Human health Negative

        Impact

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        The pharaoh ant (Monomorium pharaonis) is classified as a “generalised Myrmicine” because it has generalised food and nesting requirements and defends resources if they are close to the nest (McGlynn 1999). In addition, M. pharaonis is known as a “tramp” species, which means it is particularly reliant on human-mediated dispersal and has a close association with humans. It frequently nests inside human structures but rarely displaces native species outside urban environments (McGlynn 1999; Holway et al. 2002).

        M. pharaonis is a pest in many populated areas of the world. When it nests in homes, grocery stores or restaurants (which it often does) it often becomes a public nuisance. For example, in the Pacific Northwest it is a nuisance particularly in warehouses, grocery stores and other areas where food is kept (Antonelli and Akre 2003). Its presence in hospitals in of particular concern as it is a vector for the transmission of certain human bacterial pathogens (including Streptococcus pyogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus epidermidis), which commonly infect hospitalised patients (Nickerson and Harris 2003).

        Please read Invasive ants impacts for a summary of the general impacts of invasive ants, such as their affect on mutualistic relations, the competitive pressure they impose on native ants and the effect they may have on vulnerable ecosystems.

        Risk and Impact Factors

        Top of page Impact outcomes
        • Negatively impacts human health
        Impact mechanisms
        • Pest and disease transmission

        Prevention and Control

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        Preventative measures: The Pacific Ant Prevention Programme is a proposal prepared for the Pacific Plant Protection Organisation and Regional Technical Meeting for Plant Protection. This plan aims to prevent the red imported fire ant and other invasive ant species with economic, environmental or social impacts from establishing within or spreading between countries in the Pacific.

        Chemical: In general, ant baits that contain a metabolic inhibitor as the active ingredient (for example hydramethylnon or sulfluramid) have a 2 to 3 day delay before significant mortality occurs, while baits that contain an insect growth regulator (for example methoprene, fenoxycarb or pyriproxyfen) have a delay of several weeks. The latter (IGRs) provide gradual long-term control, while metabolic inhibitors provide short-term, localised and rapid control. As the colonies of pharaoh ant are usually composed of several nest sites a bait containing a metabolic inhibitor (or another fast-acting toxin) may need to be placed at a greater number of sites over a wider area to compensate for the relatively low level of natural toxin spread between the workers (Oi Vail and Williams 2000).

        Bibliography

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        Alvares, L.E., Bueno, O.C., Fowler, H.G. 1993. Larval instars and immature development of a Brazilian population of pharaoh's ant, Monomorium pharaonis (L.) (Hym., Formicidae) [Abstract], Journal of Applied Entomology 116(1): 90-93.

        Andersen, A. N., J. C. Z. Woinarski, and B. D. Hoffmann. 2004. Biogeography of the ant fauna of the Tiwi Islands, in northern Australia's monsoonal tropics. Australian Journal of Zoology, 52:97-110. http://www.publish.csiro.au/?act=view_file&file_id=ZO03013.pdf

        Antonelli, A.L. and Akre, R.D. 2003. EB1514E Pharoah ant. Washington State University. http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/eb1514e/eb1514e.pdf

        AntWeb, 2006. Monomorium pharaonis http://antweb.org/getComparison.do?rank=species&genus=monomorium&name=pharaonis&project=&project=

        Berndt, K.P. 1980. Cold tolerance of the Pharaoh's ants (Monomorium pharaonis) [Abstract], Angew Parasitol. 21(3): 164-172.

        Chong, A.C., Cong, N.L., Yap, H.H. and Lee, C.Y. 2002. Effects of Starvation on Nutrient Distribution in the Pharaoh Ant, Monomorium pharaonis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) Workers and Various Larval Stages, Internat. Conf. on Urban Pests: 121-128.

        Ebeling, W. 1996. Chapter 6: Pests On or Near Food, In: Urban Entomolgy Entomology UC Riverside. University of California (Division of Agricultural Sciences).

        Edwards, J.P. and Abraham, L. 1990. Changes in food selection by workers of the pharaoh's ant [Abstract], Monomorium pharaonis, Med Vet Entomol. 4(2): 205-211.

        Haack, K.D., Vinson, S.B., Olson, J.K. 1995. Food distribution and storage in colonies of Monomorium pharaonis (L.) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), Journal of Entomological Science 30(1): 70-81.

        Harris, R.; Abbott, K.; Barton, K.; Berry, J.; Don, W.; Gunawardana, D.; Lester, P.; Rees, J.; Stanley, M.; Sutherland, A.; Toft, R. 2005: Invasive ant pest risk assessment project for Biosecurity New Zealand. Series of unpublished Landcare Research contract reports to Biosecurity New Zealand. BAH/35/2004-1. http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/research/biocons/invertebrates/Ants/ant_pest_risk.asp

        Hoffmann, B. 2004. Exotic ants threaten indigenous lands, Australasian Science 25 (6).

        Holway, D. A., L. Lach, A. V. Suarez, N. D. Tsutsui, and T. J. Case. 2002. The ecological causes and consequences of ant invasions. Annual review of ecology and systematics 33:181-233.

        Hooper-Bui, L.M., Appel, A.G. and Rust, M.K. 2002. Preference of food particle size among several urban ant species [Abstract], J Econ Entomol. 95(6): 1222-1228.

        Klunker, R., Rupes, V. and J., Chmela. 1984. Control of Monomorium pharaonis using a methoprene bait in the Berlin Zoo and its combined application with a residue insecticide in the Olomouc Children's Clinic [Abstract], Angew Parasitol. 25(2): 83-93.

        Krzeminska, A., Sawicka, B., Gliniewicz, A. and Kanclerski, K. 1997. Preliminary evaluation of the incidence and control of insects: Pest control in Polish hospitals [Abstract], Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 48(3): 295-303.

        Longino, J.T. 2003. Evergreen State University. Monomorium pharaonis (Linnaeus 1758). http://www.evergreen.edu/ants/genera/monomorium/species/pharaonis/pharaonis.html

        McGlynn, T.P. 1999. The Worldwide Transfer of Ants: Geographical Distribution and Ecological Invasions, Journal of Biogeography 26(3): 535-548.

        Ness, J.H and Bronstein, J.L. 2004. The Effects of Invasive Ants on Prospective ant Mutualists, Biological Invasions 6: 445-461.

        Nickerson, J.C. and Harris, D.L. 2003. Featured Creatures. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (Division of Plant Industry).

        Ogata, K. and Terayama, M. 2003. Monomorium pharaonis. Japanese Ant Image Database. http://ant.edb.miyakyo-u.ac.jp/E/Taxo/F41107.html

        Oi, D.H., Vail, K.M. and Williams, D.F. 2000. Bait distribution among multiple colonies of Pharaoh ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), Journal of Economic Entomology 93(4): 1247–1255.

        Pacific Ant Prevention Programme, March 2004. Pacific Invasive Ant Group (PIAG) on behalf of the IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG).

        Rupes, V., Chmela, J. and Ledvinka, J. 1997. Comparison of the efficacy of baits with sulfluramid, hydramethylnon and methoprene against Pharaoh's ant [Abstract], International Pest Control 39(6): 189-191.

        Sarnat, E. M. (December 4, 2008) PIAkey: Identification guide to ants of the Pacific Islands, Edition 2.0, Lucid v. 3.4. USDA/APHIS/PPQ Center for Plant Health Science and Technology and University of California — Davis. http://www.lucidcentral.org/keys/v3/PIAkey/index.html

        Schedl, W. 1993. The occurrence of pharaoh ants in Tyrol (Austria) [Abstract], Berichte des Naturwissenschaftlich-Medizinischen Vereins in Innsbruck 80(0): 359-361.

        Slotterback, J.W., Oboyski, P.T. and Banko, P.C. 2001.Ant invasions of mamane-naio forest at high elevations on Mauna Kea. USGS. http://biology.usgs.gov/pierc/PLBankoAntpaperJS.htm

        Stanley, M. C. 2004. Review of the efficacy of baits used for ant control and eradication. Landcare Research Contract Report: LC0405/044. Prepared for: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/research/biocons/invertebrates/ants/BaitEfficacyReport.pdf

        Vail, K.M. and Williams, D.F. 1995. Pharaoh ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) colony development after consumption of pyriproxyfen baits [Abstract], J Econ Entomol. 88(6): 1695-1702.

        Varnham, K. 2006. Non-native species in UK Overseas Territories: a review. JNCC Report 372. Peterborough: United Kingdom. http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-3660

        Walker, K. 2006. Pharaoh ant (Monomorium pharaonis) Pest and Diseases Image Library. Updated on 29/08/2006 12:04:04 PM. http://www.padil.gov.au/viewPestDiagnosticImages.aspx?id=646

        Wetterer, J. K. 2002. Ants of Tonga (1). (Statistical Data Included).Pacific Science, April 2002 v56 i2 p125(11).

        Wetterer, J.K., Banko, P.C., Laniawe, L.P., Slotterback, J.W. and Brenner, G.J. 1998. Nonindigenous ants at high elevations on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i [Abstract], Pacific Science 52(3): 228-236.

        Contributors

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          Compiled by: IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group Updates with support from the Overseas Territories Environmental Programme (OTEP) project XOT603, a joint project with the Cayman Islands Government - Department of Environment

          Last Modified: Monday, October 04, 2010

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