Ants are fascinating little bugs.
There are several varieties of them, they are very adaptive, they are found on every continent except Antarctica, all but a few of the remotest islands have their own native species of them, and they are very strong for their size.
The wide variety and distribution of ant species across the globe means that these insects have a long history with the human species. Much of it is beneficial. They suppress the population of other pesky insects. They aerate the soil. They’re good composters. They can be sources of protein. Some of them have venom that has highly useful medicinal properties. In some parts of the world, large ants are used as a substitute for surgical sutures.
Quite an impressive resume for such a small creature.
That being said, ants can also be a perennial pest, especially when they move into our houses. Ants are not great house guests. They eat our food; their nesting practices can damage the structure of our buildings, and some species of ants bite and sting, sometimes quite painfully. There’s also the aesthetic element. Few people like the idea of walking into their bedroom and seeing several hundred ants crawling around on the walls, floors, and ceiling.
Of all of the various species of ants you might find infesting your home, one of the most interesting and irritating is the ghost ant. In this blog, we’ll talk a bit about this peculiar little species and share some ideas on how to get rid of ghost ants if you find them in your home.
Ghost ants: A brief profile
Ghost ants get their name from two unique elements of their physiology that aid in stealth: coloring and size.
Ghost ants are small. Very small. Ghost ants are so small, in fact, that you can miss them even if you’re looking right at them. The average size of a worker ghost ant is a mere 1.3mm to 2mm (.05 inches to .08 inches). At this size, ghost ants are visible to the naked eye but you need to have pretty good vision, know exactly where to look, and know what to look for.
This brings us to the second element of their appearance that lends to their ghost-like look: their coloring. Most of us think of ants as being either black or red. Ghost ants do have some black coloring, mostly on their heads, but the rest of their body is a very light, almost translucent, cream color. If resting or moving around on a surface that they can blend into, ghost ants can seem almost invisible.
Ghost ants are widely known in tropical regions and have been living in Hawaii and the American southeast for some time. From there they’ve spread to other states with warm or temperate climates.
Despite their adaptability, they don’t do well in cold climates and if they are found in such places, it’s usually in something like a greenhouse (more on that later).
So, why are there ghost ants in my home?
Excellent question. Ghost ants actually seem to prefer being outside. What brings them indoors? Like other ants, ghost ants are attracted to human dwellings because we offer a good and consistent source of food and water.
Thanks to their high mobility and adaptability, if some ghost ants enter your home in search of food and water, they’ll probably put down roots even if the outdoors is a more natural and comfortable place for them.
Ghost ants: Should I worry?
The short answer is no. Ghost ants are not dangerous. They don’t bite, they don’t sting, they don’t spread disease, and they don’t cause any structural damage to the places where they nest. A ghost ant infestation is more of a quality of life issue.
That being said, they can be a very pesky quality of life issue. Any ant infestation is a pain to exterminate. Ghost ants are especially resilient because they can be so hard to even detect in the first place. So how do you get rid of ghost ants? How can you prevent them from moving in to begin with? Let’s talk about that now.
How to get rid of ghost ants: prevention
You know the cliché: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It’s a cliché because it’s fundamentally accurate and virtually universal. Want to cure a ghost ant infestation? Prevent it in the first place. But how?
Close the buffet
Ants are usually drawn to our food, especially our sweets. If you have sweet foods in your house ,then you have something that ghost ants are interested in. Are we about to suggest that you remove all sweet, sugary foods from your house? No.
What we are saying is that you need to be very diligent and very meticulous in keeping your house clean of food debris. Sweep and vacuum often. Empty your indoor trash cans frequently. Keep dishes, utensils, and other food preparation and serving equipment clean.
Ensure that food, especially sweet food is packaged and stored away. An open bag of sugar is a bad idea for a number of reasons, but for ghost ants, an open bag of sugar is like an all-you-can-eat restaurant with wide open doors. Depriving ghost ants of food sources is one of the best ways of keeping them from even venturing into your home.
Turn off the water
Ants need water as much as we do and they will go where they can find it. Often, this is inside our homes. We’re not generally talking about sinks, bathtubs, or toilets here. The primary issue here is leaks and perennial condensation that can offer a consistent source of water for ants.
Make sure that all of the pipes in your house are free of leaks. If there are areas where moisture regularly condenses, then address the issue by making some repairs, ventilating the area, or installing a dehumidifier. This is especially true in more remote, low traffic areas of your home, like areas behind walls for example.
Coincidently, water-logged or water-damaged wood can be both a source of food for ants and an attractive place to nest. This means that addressing moisture issues can kill as many as three birds with one stone.
Close the door
We aren’t just talking about your front door, though ghost ants can make their way into your house that way as well. We’re talking about the numerous gaps, cracks and holes that can be found in virtually any structure.
These are things like gaps where water and natural gas pipes and electricity and telecommunications service drops interface with your house. They’re elements like worn weather stripping on doors and windows. They include small tears in screen doors and windows. You’ll want to seal these as best you can.
Remember, ghost ants are very small and mobile and they do not need a lot of space to move around, so the smallest opening can be a potential point of entry. Admittedly, you probably won’t be able to detect let alone seal all of these holes, but you can minimize them, especially around areas where food and water are present.
Don’t bring them in
This one probably sounds stupid. Who would willingly bring ghost ants into their house? Nobody probably, but ghost ants can easily stow away on things that you do bring into your home. Do you remember earlier when we talked about greenhouses being one of the few places that ants can live in colder climates?
Well it just so happens that potted plants that you buy in a greenhouse or keep in your yard can be a potential source of ghost ants. Ghost ants are known to nest in the soil in potted plants so bringing one inside can be a source of infestation.
Are we saying no potted plants in the house? No. You can still have potted plants but be careful, especially if the potted plant has spent the warm summer months outside. Inspect them for ant activity and if you detect any after you’ve brought the plant in, move it outside quickly.
Ants, like most insects, are drawn to vegetation. It offers food, cover, and a place to nest. If ghost ants are attracted to any plants near your house (especially ones that themselves emit or play host to insects that emit honeydew—not the fruit), there is a good chance they’ll eventually work their way inside.
How to get rid of ghost ants that are already inside
As we’ve already said, ghost ants are highly mobile, very adaptable, and hard to detect. This means that even the most strict and rigorous ghost ant prevention regimen is not guaranteed to work. Despite your best efforts, ghost ants may still get inside. Or maybe the ghost ants have already settled in before you read this and it’s too late. What now?
Here’s some advice on how to get rid of ghost ants that are already infesting your home.
There are a number of effective insecticides that can be used against ghost ants. As with other species of ants, bait is often the best way to go with ants. With ghost ant bait, ghost worker ants will gather the poisoned bait and take it back to the nest where it will spread across the population.
It can take time for ant bait to work and it may be frustrating because it may seem like it isn’t working. Be patient. Well placed ant bait traps take time to be effective.
What is the best bait for ghost ants? Pyrethroid or pyrethrin based insecticide baits are fairly effective.
Call the professionals
It can be quite difficult to eliminate ants. If you have ghost ants and haven’t had any success exterminating them, we’re here to help. Just contact us or give us a call.