Gorgie flats infested by 'indestructible' ants which can carry salmonella as residents raise 'health risk' concerns

Pharaoh ants are notoriously hard to get rid of.

Monday, 9th December 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Monday, 9th December 2019, 5:59 pm

Residents have hit out at the owners of several Gorgie blocks of flats for not doing enough to control an infestation of Pharaoh ants.

Steven Eckhardt, 42, who lives in one of the flats at 1-4 Robertson Gait owned by Home Group, says he spotted one of the creatures coming out of a tap earlier this week and is now worried they have infected the water supply.

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Steven Eckhardt and his father William. Picture: Lisa Ferguson.

The ants were also discovered in the building two years ago, and Mr Eckhardt claims that it was a bite from one of them which landed him in hospital for two weeks.

Pharaoh ants are known to sometimes carry salmonella and Streptococcus.

Bitten by ant

Mr Eckhardt found a number of the ants in his flat in 2017 after a neighbour warned him about them.

He claims to have been bitten by one, which was ‘red and yellow’ and ‘about 2mm long’, he said.

“I got infected from the bite and I was in hospital for two or three weeks,” added Mr Eckhardt, who was admitted to the Infectious Diseases ward of the Western General.

“Now the ants are back and everyone in the building is at risk of getting sick.”

Mr Eckhardt reported the ants to Housing Association Home Group, which owns the building, but says they have not taken enough action.

“Home Group have done nothing to help us about these ants,” he said.

“I'm really worried people are going to get sick.”

“I’ve told them I was bitten but they don’t seem to care, I really don’t know where I stand,” he added.

Mr Eckhardt also reported the ants to Edinburgh City Council.

Residents received a letter on December 1 asking them to liaise with Home Group to organise a survey of the property and treatment if needed.

“Please do not organise treatment yourself as a block wide treatment of all related infestations is recommended to ensure maximum chance of eradication,” the letter adds.

It also advises that Pharaoh ants can be a health risk.

“Pharaoh ants can spread bacteria from one place or food to another, and because of this can pose a health risk. There is also evidence to suggest they are biting insects,” it says.

An Edinburgh City Council spokewoman said: “Our Environmental Health team has been providing advice and guidance to owners and residents in Robertson Gait following a complaint about ants from one resident, who was treating the infestation correctly in their property.

"We would encourage a co-ordinated approach to treatment by all properties through their factoring service and we would be happy to provide further guidance if required."

Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh ants are among the most difficult household pests to eliminate.

The species can be found in almost all corners of the world, though in the UK they are only found indoors due to their preference for warmer temperatures.

Unusually for ants, each colony contains many different queens, leading to social divisions and a type of class system among the ants, studied by many experts.

This makes them especially hard to get rid of, as using normal pesticides can often make the ants split up into separate colonies, which then grow bigger leading to an even larger infestation.

The ants tend to build nests inside walls or in the insulation of a building.

The recommended way to combat the ants is using food baits which sterilize the queen and prevent further reproduction.

William Mulheron, Maintenance Manager at Home Group in Scotland, said: “I’m sorry to hear about the disruption caused to our customers and want to reassure them that we’re doing everything we can to make sure this situation is resolved as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

“While this issue first started in 2017, 18 months had passed since the last reported instance of ants. Since being made aware of this latest reoccurrence we are in the process of surveying all properties within the building and are relieved to find the majority show no evidence of an infestation.

“Over the next 12 months we will liaise with pest control and conduct weekly visits to Robertson Gait until we are certain that the ants have been fully removed.”