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Ghost Ant     Tapinoma melanocephalum

Size:

Tiny, usually less than 1/16-inch in length.

Color:

Pale, with a dark head and abdomen.

Behavior:

Ghost ants may develop huge colonies containing thousands of workers and numerous queens. This species may be difficult to control and does not feed much on ant baits. The keys to control are to find the colonies and subcolonies and treat them directly. Regular inspections and service are necessary to find and treat new colonies as they move from neighboring properties. The services of a professional.

This ant is now a major pest throughout most of Florida and several of the Hawaiian Islands. It occasionally is found in apartments and greenhouses in northern states. These ants nest outdoors under items on the ground, within landscape mulch, beneath loose bark on trees, under ground cover, in potted plants, and within piles of items such as lumber, firewood, or bricks. Nests may be readily established inside homes in walls, beneath carpeting, and in other suitable voids or spaces.

 This species may be difficult to control and ant baits may not be effective against it. The keys to control are to find the colonies and subcolonies and treat them directly. Where the colonies cannot be found, baits may be attempted; however, several baits may be required before positive results are seen. Regular inspections and service are necessary to find and treat new colonies as they move in from neighboring properties. The services of a professional are very helpful when encountering these ants. General tips for limiting ant infestations include:

  • Eliminate piles of lumber, bricks, or other debris that could serve as a nesting site for ants.
  • Keep landscape mulch less than 2 inches thick and at least 12 inches away from foundations.
  • Ensure the sprinkler system does not spray directly onto the foundation.
  • Seal as many cracks in the home's exterior as possible.
  • Keep tree and shrub branches from touching the house.

Unique Characteristics:
When they move around on light surfaces, the Ghost ant’s transparent abdomens and legs seem to vanish, leaving just the dark head and thorax visible. On darker surfaces, all you see are pale patches moving about, giving it a “ghostly” appearance.

Control:
It is best to disperse piles of wood, rocks and other debris to discourage nesting sites. Trim landscaping to keep limbs from touching the outside of homes and eliminate excess moisture by repairing leaky roofs, hoses and plumbing. Seal any holes or cracks in exterior walls and foundations. Treating the colonies and sub-colonies directly is suggested since ghost ants usually do not respond to baits.

The ghost ant gets its name from the pale color of its legs and abdomen. These ants have dark heads and thoraxes. . The legs, antennae, and abdomen are so light that these ants are often difficult to see. Ghost ants are tiny ants. The workers are about 1/16” long.Ghost ants,Tapinoma melanocephalum , are related to odorous house ants. Like the odorous house ants, ghost ants give off an unpleasant odor when they are crushed.

Ghost ants have been in south and central Florida for several years. They are easily transported in boxes, crates, potted plants, and even in household goods that are being shipped. In northern states, these ants have only been known to survive in heated buildings and greenhouses.

These ants eat honeydew that they collect from plant-feeding insects. They often tend aphids to collect the honeydew. The workers also gather insects to feed the colony. When they are indoors, ghost ants seem to prefer sweets.

Outdoors, ghost ants make their nest in the ground. They often nest beside stones, logs, and firewood piles. They enter buildings on trails that they make along the ground. They also enter houses by trailing on utility lines or by following limbs of trees and shrubs that touch the house.

When ghost ants make nests indoors, it is usually in cracks and crevices. They also nest in flowerpots, behind baseboards, and inside of wall voids.  They often nest in places that are too small for the entire colony to fit. This causes the colony to split into several nests. It is normal to find ghost ants trailing between multiple nesting sites. Ghost ants have a high

A thorough inspection is the first step in preventing ghost ant problems. Around the outside of the house, look for places that might attract ghost ants. Move firewood piles away from the house. Pull mulch away from the foundation to create a “dry zone” that the ants (and other insects) will avoid. Make sure exterior doors close snugly. Replace weather-stripping where it is missing. People who live in brick houses often place small squares of plastic screen into weep holes to keep ants from using them as entrances.

Controlling ghost ants requires time and patience. Because there can be multiple nesting sites, these ants are usually best left to a pest control professional.

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-- Duggan Cooley, former CEO- RCS

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