Ghost ants are tiny. The workers are less than 1/16″ long. They have a distinctive coloration. The head and mid-section are dark. The abdomen (back segment), legs, and antennae are very light colored. Because of their small size and pale coloration, these ants are very hard to see. The two-toned coloration causes some people to call them “black-headed ants”.
Ghost ants seem to be tropical ants. They are well established in several places around the Caribbean. They are also established in Puerto Rico, in Florida, and in Hawaii. There have been isolated infestations in northern states. There have also been reports of ghost ants in California and other places along the Pacific coast.
These northern sightings may have involved plants that had been shipped to northern greenhouses. They also could have involved ant colonies hitching rides in household goods that were shipped or in tourist’s luggage returning from vacation.
Ghost ants nest outdoors in holes in trees, in the soil under rocks, under woodpiles, and even in potted plants. The workers tend aphids and other plant-feeding insects. They gather the honeydew that the aphids produce. The honeydew is a major food item for the ghost ant colony.
Ghost ant colonies are often very large. There are multiple queens in a colony. Because of the colony size, ghost ants often use several nesting sites at the same time. The workers move between the satellite nests along established trails.
The workers forage in trails. They readily enter buildings using entrances like door thresholds and weep holes. The workers also follow tree limbs or shrubs that touch the house. Because of their small size, they can enter through tiny cracks around windows or utility line entrances.
Inside the home, ghost ant workers follow the edge of carpets, cabinet bases, or baseboards. They frequently rail to moisture sources in kitchens and bathrooms. They can follow electric wires, cables, and phone lines inside of walls and move from room to room.
Because of their mall size, ghost ants can make indoor nests in narrow cracks and crevices. They readily nest in wall voids, under baseboards, and in electrical; boxes. A ghost ant nest was reported inside a stack of magazines on a side table in a family room.
Prevention is a key part of controlling ghost ants. Make sure exterior doors close tightly and replace missing weather-stripping. Try using squares of plastic screen to block weep holes without restricting ventilation. Trim tree limbs that touch the house. Rake mulch away from the foundation to make a 12″ “clear zone”. Put firewood up on a rack and move it as far from the home as possible.