Ghost ants are tropical ants found widely distributed throughout the world in warm climates and greenhouses. Especially in tropical and subtropical regions, ghost ants are regarded as a major household pest, since they can spoil food and generally make a nuisance of themselves. As with other ants, a number of techniques can be used to discourage and control ghost ants, but these techniques are only effective when combined with diligence and determination.
This ant, formally known as Tapinoma melanocephalum, has very distinctive coloration which makes it readily recognizable. The front of the body is dark brown, while the back of the body is translucent to white. This unusual coloration is undoubtedly responsible for the common name, although people also say that ghost ants are a lot like ghosts, flitting quickly in and out of homes. Ghost ants are also extremely small, and they appear smaller, thanks to their coloration, as people may only be able to see the front of the body from a distance. When crushed, the ants emit a distinctive pungent odor which some people liken to rotten tropical fruit.
These ants are very adaptable nesters, being capable of nesting in a wide variety of habitats. They prefer moist environments, so they may come indoors during dry weather, or select a humid greenhouse for nesting. While ghost ants can eat many different foods, including other ants, they appear to have a preference for sweets, going after sugar, cakes, cookies, candies, and so forth.
Keeping a house as clean as possible can be one way to deter ghost ants. Closing sweets up in airtight containers is also a good idea, as it denies the ants a regular source of food. Counters and stoves should be wiped down regularly, and dishes should be done quickly so that they do not draw ants. Some people also have success in deterring ants by laying down lines of cinnamon, which appear to disrupt the chemical signals the ants use to communicate.
The best ant bait for ghost ants is a boric acid-based bait. Many hardware stores sell boric acid solutions for pest control, sometimes in ready-to-use containers. Boric acid baits will need to be diluted to ensure that the worker ants bring the bait all the way back to the nest. If you can find the nest, you can also place bait around the nest, ensuring that the ants get a concentrated hit of the bait. Make sure to place bait in areas out of the reach of children and pets.