COLLEGE STATION — Ghost ants are deserving of their name. They’re small, almost clear, move quickly and are hard to track. But Texas A&M University researchers have tracked them to this state.
“They’re really just nuisance ants,” said Dr. Jerry Cook, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station entomologist. “They don’t sting. They can’t really bite you and harm you, but they like to get into household foods and places that we just don’t like to see ants.”
The ghost ant — which resembles the Pharoah or sugar ant in size and as a nuisance factor — was probably brought in on plants through Galveston from Florida. It’s ranked with the fire ant as the No. 1 pest ant in Florida, Cook said.
Cook said it’s not known what their native area is — perhaps Africa — but they have adapted well to living indoors in the southeastern United States. There have been isolated reports of the ant in Illinois and Canada.
“We provide a nice, controlled environment for them indoors,” he said.
Texas A&M researchers were among the first to find the ant when it came into the state in 1994 or 1995, he said.
Since the pest is relatively new, researchers don’t know what control will work best, but suspect it will be something similar to what is used with Pharoah ants. Spraying pesticides around the home will kill workers but will not reach the queen in the nest. “So if you don’t get rid of the queen, she just keeps replenishing the numbers.”
With more than one queen per colony, the ghost ant reproduces very quickly, he said.
What seems to control the ants best is a slow-acting bait that workers carry back to the nest, Cook said. However, researchers will have to test different baits to see which will perform the best with ghost ants.
“Right now we haven’t found a bait that’s commercially available that’s real effective,” Cook said. “It’s not that the poison isn’t effective, it’s that the ants don’t seem to like it. They don’t seem to be attracted to anything that’s on the market right now.
Texas A&M is planning to research the basic biology of the ant, he said.