Tiny but destructive: magnified photograph of Pharaoh ant.
Heating Systems a Magnet for Tropical Ants
The British Pest Control Association (BPCA) is cautioning managers of large, centrally heated buildings against significant risks presented by a small species of tropical ant.
Pharoah ants are tiny but can create huge colonies that will split if threatened and can potentially spiral out of control. In the UK, the pests will only be found in the structures of large centrally-heated buildings such as high-rise flats, hospitals and bakeries.
Specialist products can effectively control the heat-loving insects – which are frequently found in the boiler rooms of interconnected buildings and, quite commonly, trailing down surfaces close to high heat sources such as ovens – but training and knowledge are key to tackling an ant nest.
Natalie Bungay, BPCA technical managers, says: "Pharoah ant nests can vary in size, but they can grow to massive proportions, with research finding nests containing 50,000 workers and 100,000 ants in the young stages.
"Only between five and ten per cent of workers forage for food, so a trail of Pharoah ants down the face of a wall or machine is just a small part of the picture.
"The workers may respond to danger by 'budding', which is sometimes referred to as 'satelliting' , and will move pupae and young larvae away from the original colony, which can lead to the ants spreading throughout a building or complex, and the infestation spiralling out of control."
BPCA urges facilities managers to engage professional pest controllers to tackle Pharoah ants infestations, as specialised products and careful surveying are required for successful treatment.
Bungay explains: "A hormone bait can be used to sterilise queens and prevent larvae from developing, but this system can mean controlling the infestation could take around four months.
"Newer, in-depth surveying and gel bait products mean control can be achieved within two or three weeks, but a carefully planned and implemented strategy, delivered by a professional pest controller, is the key to success."
Visit bpca/org.uk/pharoahant for additional information.