The ghost ant is a very tiny ant less than 1/16-inch (2 mm) long that has a dark head and thorax and a pale colored, almost translucent, abdomen and legs. For this reason, it may also be called the black-headed ant. The ghost ant is related to the odorous house ant and resembles it except for the size and color. The odorous house ant is larger and is colored completely brown. Like the odorous house ant, ghost ant workers emit a rotten coconut odor when crushed.
A colony of ghost ants may be moderate to large in size, containing thousands of workers and numerous reproductive queens. Colonies are typically located in sites that are too small to house an entire colony so the colony is usually divided into sub-colonies.
The ghost ant’s primary habitat is outdoors, and like most successful tramp ant species, it is highly opportunistic in its nesting habits. It will nest in soil, in debris in crotches of trees, dead tree limbs, under and inside logs, in and under firewood, and under stones.
Indoors, colonies will be located inside walls, in boxes, between sheets, towels, and folded clothing, in waterbeds, and virtually any other dark protected site. One colony was discovered in a Miami home when the iron was plugged in and ghost ants poured out of the holes in the bottom of the iron! This ant challenges the Pharaoh ant for versatility in selecting nest sites.
The workers are very fond of the honeydew secreted by aphids, mealy bugs, and scales and will protect them from predators. Ghost ants readily attack and kill insects and will forage on dead insects in window sills and around outdoor light fixtures. Indoors, ghost ants show a preference for sweets. They are commonly found inside packages of candy, sugar, and similar foods in kitchen pantries.
Ghost ants seem to have a high need for moisture. Ghost ants readily live inside wall voids, and homeowners often report seeing workers trailing out of electric outlet plates, particularly in kitchens and bathrooms. Like Pharaoh ants, these ants use electric wires to travel from room to room. By removing electric outlet plates and inspecting with a flashlight, foraging ants can sometimes be seen in these areas. These boxes can be baited with baits such as Gourmet Ant Bait Gel.
Successful control of ghost ants depends on the ability to locate foraging ants and nesting sites. Ghost ant colonies living in the soil or under items, such as stones or logs, should be treated by drenching each individual colony with a residual insecticide such as Demon WP using a hand held sprayer or backpack sprayer.
Ghost Ant colonies living inside wall voids can be treated by drilling a small hole into the wall and injecting a small amount of an aerosol or dust insecticide such as Borid Dust.
If the ghost ant colony cannot be located, outdoor liquid ant bait stations must be used. Sweet baits such as Gourmet Liquid Ant Bait seem to be preferred over other liquid baits by ghost ants..
Some experts have found that ghost ants respond better to granular ant baits such as Eclipse Professional Insect Bait if the granulars are ground into finer, smaller particles.
Outdoor baiting such as KM Ant Pro Ant Feeder Station with Gourmet Ant Bait is the most effective.
Don’ts – Do not spray any repellent spray pesticides around Ghost Ants. Spraying will not kill the queens but will increase the egg laying and will only compound the problem. Only use liquid baits or non-repellent insecticides such as Termidor on Ghost Ants outdoors.