How to get rid of ghost ants? Call… The… Ghostbust—Hey, get off me! I’m writing an article here. You can’t drag me away like this, I’m a writer!
I’m back. Somebody’s had a word with me. It turns out, unfortunately for both you and I that ghost ants aren’t actually the spectral memories of the ants you’ve killed – they’re an actual, bona-fide culture of ant.
Ghost Ants 101
So-called due to their very pale white hue, which makes them almost impossible to spot and even if you do…They’ll vanish in the blink of an eye. So don’t blink.
For the most part, there isn’t a whole world of difference between ghost ants and regular house/garden ants.
Their physicality is roughly the same; the pale ghosty color only really applies to their legs, antennae and abdomen, whereas their upper bodies and head are much darker in color.
Ghost ants, despite what their near albino color would seem to suggest, tend to hail from very hot climates and need a high temperature in order to survive, which means they’re often spotted indoors and in heated environments such as greenhouses and buildings of their ilk (plus, the food supply doesn’t hurt).
In terms of their reproduction, things are a little bit different from standard ant operating procedure. The queen – because there’s always a queen – lays her eggs in the nest/underground hive, as usual, but new colonies are formed via a process called ‘budding’.
Where regular ants would usually mate and then seek a new house to raise their young; ghost ant queens will often whip round a little party of worker ants and set forth on an expedition to find a welcoming spot to create a new colony.
Ghost ants have that good ‘ole classic ant sweet tooth and tend to subsist on mostly sugary, greasy or protein rich foodstuffs (they love insects that handle honeydew, for example, and sometimes keep them alive so they can harvest the good stuff from them…Sadistic, or what?)
How to Get Rid of Ghost Ants
Right, let’s get down to it. How do I get rid of them, short of phoning in an exorcist? Here’s your action plan.
Do your research
First things first, you want to actually survey your home or garden and make sure that A) it’s ghost ants that you’re dealing with and B) you know where they’re coming from or where they’re coming in. Otherwise, you’re just shooting in the dark and that rarely ends well.
Outside, ghost ants like to hunker down in things like rotten wood, hollowed out trees, lumber, construction clutter, rocks, soil, moss – just the general detritus of a back yard, and locations where they might find some heat, privacy and a relatively safe environment.
When they’ve found their way into the home, though, you want to look for any crevices or gaps in your walls and pipework – this can be anything from large, several inch-wide fissures, to tiny, tiny little holes your eye can barely spot.
Think of places that generate heat, or exhibit some of the traits they like out in the wild (i.e. plant pots full of soil and moisture, pipework where some liquid might leak out, sinks, kitchen areas and so forth).
Seal it up!
Let’s keep things domestic for a minute. After you’ve located any suspect areas and gaps in your home’s walls, doors, sills, pipes or vents – you want to immediately let any ghost ants know that these little highways are off limits.
This means plugging up the spaces as best you can. Usually some simple sealants will do the trick, such as caulking, waterproof sealant for bathtubs and pipework or even expanding foam (although this latter has been known to be quite soft and dig-able for ants if they really want to get in).
Whilst you’re carrying out this process, it’s a good idea to do a little bit of general housekeeping too.
Dry up any moisture deposits you come across and make sure your pipes aren’t leaking – a small puddle can be a big magnet for pests of all kinds – and try to keep your food waste and mess to an absolute minimum, especially anything that has a high sugary/sweet content or might leave grease deposits in your trash (and let’s face it, that probably corresponds to a lot more foodstuffs than we’d like to admit…The diet starts tomorrow…)
Bait ‘em all
Interestingly, when it comes to ghost ants, many experts recommend trying to avoid using indoor pesticides as much as possible – unless you’ve located a very specific collection of the ants or you’re using an aerosol spray as a sort of revolver on your hip, clearing the town of any miscreants as you come across them.
The reason for this thinking is that you don’t want to agitate the colony if it’s set up in your own home: think of all those many, many, difficult to see ghost ants scurrying for cover all over your house. Not a pleasant forecast.
All is not lost, however. Enter the ghost ant bait traps.
Bait traps tend to be much less invasive and slower acting, which means they’ll be unlikely to disrupt the colony too much, but rather slowly kill them off one by one.
These can range from simple granulated poisons which are coated in some tasty food all the way to actual physical structures that trap the ants as they enter them. They’re fairly cheap and simple to use, but luck is on your side if you want to try the DIY route.
Seeing as a large part of the ghost ant’s diet is sweet, sugary foodstuffs; DIY cardboard traps can be made fairly easily with some slower acting insecticides laced with sugary water or syrup.
Simply coat a strip of cardboard with both the killing agent and the ‘bait’ and leave it in areas you’ve spotted ghost ant activity before. Leave it for a few hours, or even overnight. and you should start to see some results.
Speaking of slower acting toxins, though…
Natural ant killers
Old favorite ingredients of the pest-eradication world can be very useful when it comes to killing off indoor ghost ants without alerting the larger nest.
Diatomaceous earth, boric acid, baking powder and so forth – these simple, cheap, natural and often homemade ant killers will either adhere to the ants as they pass through and dehydrate them until the point of death or poison them to death once ingested..
The added bonus here is that unsuspecting ants will often drag these ant killers straight back home and infect their pals too. You didn’t even have to lift a finger!
Destroying the homes
So, let’s assume you’ve successfully found your local ghost ant hide-out, now what? The answer is simple on the surface, but a little more complex underneath. Just like an ant hill.
It’s no use just toppling the tip of the antberg with a rake or shovel and leaving the real meat of a hive or hill to thrive below the dirt. Ants will rebuild as soon as your back is turned, that much you can count on.
To adequately eliminate the inner-workings, it’s best to look to a liquid solution: a powerful exterior pesticide (don’t worry, we can use them now that we’re outside, away from the house).
For a lot of solutions, less can be more, but when it comes to trying to flood out an anthill, more is more. There’s no real telling how deep or far the chambers and tunnels go without digging it all up yourself (which isn’t as terrible an idea as it may sound), so you want to flood the hill good and proper with your toxin of choice.
Naturally, always make sure that the insecticide you’re using won’t be harmful for your garden’s environment and keep children/pets at bay when you’re dispensing it. But generally, make sure you’ve saturated the colony and killed off just about every straggler in there – especially the queen.
Erect a barrier
Once you’ve cleared out any of the residential ghost ants hunkered down in your home or running through your garden’s soil, it’s time to look at methods to keep them out.
There are a few methods for keeping ants away from certain areas – sometimes a thick, dense soil can do the trick because it proves to be very difficult for ants to navigate – short of reforming the foundations of your home, this isn’t going to be a practical method for keeping them out of the house.
For quick, messy ad hoc solutions for windows, doors and sills, then you might try something like Vaseline which, for some bizarre reason, seems to be total anathema for ants of all calibers.
But for mass exclusion, it’s really got to be insecticides again. Ants, and their ghosts, aren’t stupid… whilst insecticides are primarily a reactive method used for killing them off – you can also use them as a deterrent and repellent: once bitten, any surviving ants in your garden are unlikely to want to play around with these toxic chemicals again.
Use a wide-nozzled spray and give the perimeter of your house a thorough going over to eliminate any and all missed entry points. Many people neglect to give the actual walls of the house a good coating – which is ludicrous – so make sure to really paint the place as best you can.
The major downside to this form of repellent is the cost factor, especially when you consider the regularity of reapplications… even the most weatherproof chemicals aren’t that weatherproof.
Homemade and natural solutions
Ghost ants, although different in their activity and diets, are susceptible to a lot of the same natural ingredients as your garden variety ant. Things like dishwashing soap and good old vinegar will kill or deter ghost ants with varying success depending on the size of your problem and the dilution you use.
The vast majority of the essential oils that you can find in your local supermarket or organic stores will do the trick too: peppermint oil, tea tree oil, clove oil… these can all be mixed with water for your own natural ant spray.
The downside is that there’s an element of trial and error to getting the right ratios which won’t be ideal if you’re looking for immediate action. If your ghost ant problem is persistent, it might be best to opt for some manmade pesticides straight away to put a dent in it!
Now, repeat after me: I ain’t afraid of no ghost (ants)!