One question that often plagues homeowners and professional pest control people alike;
Is that a thief ant or pharaoh ant?
Ok, so here I am a professional with over 2 decades of working with bugs but I have to admit I sometimes can’t tell either. I mean they are both so tiny and they seem to come out of nowhere only to disappear in some barely visible crack that seems impossible for anything to crawl through. The problem with not knowing however can lead to frustration and a lot of wasted time and money.
Although both ants can and do eat a lot of the same things, thief ants tend to eat foods with a high protein content. This could be one reason they are often referred to as ‘grease ants’. Many times a do it yourself pest control person will bait these ants with Terro or other sweet baits and get very limited results. Baiting is the homeowners best option for indoor ants and as you can see picking the right bait is paramount. Spraying the ants will help alleviate your frustrations a bit but thief ants can ‘bud’ or split the colony just as pharaoh ants do when under stress or attack.
The two tell tale signs to look for
Rather than go through all the similarities of the two ants I’ll just give you the best ways to determine which one you have. Once you’ve determined which ant you have you can decide on a successful treatment plan. Just remember thief ants like proteins so purchase a bait with that in mind. Pharaoh ants love the sweets so Terro or other products of like kind will do just fine.
#1 Thief ants have a visible stinger
You’ll need a good magnifying glass to see it but the thief ant does have a visible stinger while the pharaoh ant does not. While you have the ant under glass you could also count the antenna segments and club ends but for me, I just leave that up to the guy’s with the phd titles and the pocket protectors.
#2 Thief ants curl up in a ball when they die
You won’t need a glass for this one and it’s almost always my first indicator. Now pharaoh and other ants curl a bit too from time to time but only a few. It’s not unusual to find a couple dozen or more thief ants dead in a corner ALL curled up in tiny little balls. I’m not sure why they do it but at my age when my glasses need glasses, I’m glad they do.
There are spray techniques that can aid in eliminating these ants but it’s a delicate balance that I’d leave up to the pros. A newer gel bait on the market for thief ants is called Optigard and works quite well and MaxForce makes bait stations with the protein rich food inside. For Pharaoh ants Terro is always a quick fix but I find Advion ant gel to be the most effective. If things get out of hand or your baiting just isn’t cutting it don’t rule out making the call to your local exterminator. Both of these ants can be extremely difficult and reoccurring problems. I’ve had many cases where they were so frustrating I wanted to just curl up in a corner and die. 😮