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Ghost Ant (Tapinoma Melanocephalum)

Facts, Identification & Control

Ghost ants get their common name from the fact that they are very hard to see due to their pale color and tiny size.

Where do they live?

They live both indoors and outdoors. Indoor trails often lead to sinks, baths, toilets and showers. The nests are frequently located within wall voids, behind skirting boards, or in potted plant soil. Workers run rapidly and erratically, trailing along edges and corners. 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 usually prefer sweets.

Outdoors, Ghost ants make their nest in the ground. They often nest beside stones, and wood piles. 

How do they live?

They are tropical ants and tend to prefer warmer, wet habitats. They have multiple queens in a single colony with individual nests containing between 100-1,000 workers. One colony may consist of several nests which readily exchange workers.

Ghost ants have 4 life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. New colonies are often formed through a process known as budding (a queen and a group of workers separate from the main colony to form a new colony elsewhere). This can happen multiple times, depending on the number of queens.

Ghost ant workers are extremely small, 1.3 to 1.5mm long.

How do they affect us?

This species will live on grease and other insects but favours sweet foods. Ghost ants do not sting and usually do not bite unless their nest is threatened. When passing from dirty areas like drains and rubbish bins to food sources in the home, and while chewing through materials, Ghost ants may transfer germs throughout the home.

How do we control them?

Cleanliness is the best approach to ant control. Food should be stored in tight containers. Plants that can attract ants should be removed or pruned. Aphids, whiteflies or other insects that produce honeydew should be kept under control. Moisture sources, including condensation and leaks should be removed.

Mulch should be pulled away from the building’s foundation to create a “dry zone” that the ants will avoid. Exterior doors should close snugly. Weather stripping should be replaced where it is missing. Homeowners should keep shrubbery trimmed, ensure branches are cut back, and remove leaf litter and debris. Indoor colonies nesting within voids can be controlled with baits.