Characteristics, Habits, and Geography
Ghost ants are diminutive insects, reaching only 1/16 of an inch. Their name derives from their translucent or milky white abdomens and legs; only their heads and thoraxes are dark brown. They have also been know to temporarily take on the colors of the foods that they eat. Although they are often mistaken for pharaoh ants, ghost ants can be identified by the single node in their abdomens. Pharaoh ants, in contrast, have two nodes. When crushed, ghost ants emit a rotten coconut-like odor.
Ghost ants are adaptable, and will nest both indoors and outdoors. They require a great deal of moisture, and outdoor colonies are found most often in plant stems, tufts of damp, dead grass, flowerpots, and spaces beneath debris and loose bark. Indoors, they often settle in greenhouses and in spaces between books, between walls, and between cabinets. They are quite mobile, and will often settle in a particular spot for only a few days or weeks. Colonies frequently break up into smaller subcolonies, so that homeowners who find and destroy a single nest may find that they have not wiped out an entire colony. Individual ants travel between subcolonies, finding their way by using scent trails created between the nests.
The diet of ghost ants consists of sugars, cakes, syrups, and other sweets, as well as of living and dead insects. These ants specifically prefer to eat honeydew and honeydew producing insects.
Ghost ants can be found worldwide, and are so widespread that it is impossible to determine their place of origin.
Ghost ants are considered pests due to their frequent presence in homes, and the fact that they feed on household foods. Homeowners who suspect that their houses have been invaded by ghost ants should look for the insects in bathrooms and kitchens, specifically on counters, floors, and sinks. They should also be alert to the smell of rotten coconuts, as this also signals the presence of the ants.
Homeowners looking to prevent ghost ant invasion should focus on keeping their houses clean. All food should be kept in sealed containers, and crumbs should be scrupulously cleaned up. Plants that attract aphids and other honeydew producing insects should be removed. Any conditions, such as leaking pipes, that cause moisture in the home should also be fixed.
Ghost ants are susceptible to a number of insecticides currently on the market, although homeowners with extreme ghost ant problems may consider calling in licensed professionals to deal with the issue.