Ghost ants and Pharaoh ants - Two ants notorious for budding
First of all, what is budding? You’ll often come across the term budding when speaking to a pest control professional; but what is budding and why is it important to pest control in general? The term budding is especially relevant to the control of cockroaches(especially German cockroaches) and certain ant species. In the pest control industry budding refers directly to the spreading out of a certain pest species throughout a structure or other area usually due to attempting to control a pest with a repellent spray, although budding can also occur due to baits, non-repellent sprays and naturally. A non-repellent spray will often disrupt budding since the pests cannot detect they have been infected with the pesticide barrier, but when dealing with the forces of nature it is important to remember that there are exceptions to every rule and never say never since anything is possible. The general idea is not to cause budding, so the pest doesn’t spread out into other areas of the structure being treated. Budding is an attempt to preserve a colony and survive through atmospheric conditions that may destroy it. It’s an instinctive survival mechanism.
Now, what is a ghost ant?
The ghost ant is an invasive species of ant that was imported to south Florida around 1988. It is impossible to to say where this ant originated from but most entomologists agree that they are originally from Africa or the Orient. Since 1988 they have spread northward to as far up as Gainesville, so that means Ocala, Lady lake, the Villages and surrounding areas are all within range, and we’ve gotten calls from each town to boot. Actually, ghost ants are active the whole year round but the reason I consider the cooler months of November through January to be the height of ghost ant season is because that’s when we get most of our calls for this major pest. During these months the ghost ant invades the inside of structures searching for warmth, water, and food. The ghost ant is without a doubt a major nuisance pest and they can be tricky to control.
Ghost ant control can be tricky
Ghost ants are often referred to as sugar ants. Personally, I don’t like the term “sugar ant” because this can mean several different kinds of ants and when dealing with a ghost ant infestation, or any other ant species it is of vital importance to know exactly which species you are dealing with. It seems they may have gained their common name of “sugar ant” because they are a sweet feeding ant, but there are also several other sweet feeding ants which can also lead to further identification confusion. Spraying these ants with a repellent pesticide will only cause “budding”, which means “spreading”. Once budding occurs the ant in question will start to make appearances in other parts of the structure, making the problem worse than the original infestation. Ghost ants are very, very tiny, and are often confused with rover ants. This ant will readily nest indoors or outdoors, and colonies are usually of moderate to large in size containing many reproductive females. Indoors, the ant will nest in wall voids, spaces between cabinetry and baseboards, and they will even nest in potted plants. There are multiple queens which have the potential to spread out in multiple sub colonies. The ghost ants habits are similar to the Pharaoh ant, which is an ant that we’ll be covering in a future blog post since they are a significant problem as well.
Ghost ant control can take patience
If you have an infestation of ghost ants it is very important that you call us right away. They need to be positively identified and treated accordingly. You should not use common household insecticides as this will only spread out the ants making the problem worse. You should also save any bodies that you may have in case the trail dissolves by the time our technicians can get out to you. Trails can disappear and reappear sporadically within a very short period of time.
Okay, what's a pharaoh ant?
The pharaoh ant is yet another invasive species and pest control issue that we deal with here in central Florida. This can be a tricky ant to deal with that may leave you scratching your head. Here’s the story behind the pesky pharaoh ant and ant control methods used for successful eradication.
The pharaoh ant is a small ant. Only slightly bigger than the rover ant and the ghost ant. They tend to be yellow or light brown, and appear transparent. These ants have become a real nuisance and tend to be the number one ant to invade hospitals. Still, we here at Meryl’s Termite and Pest control get residential calls for pharaoh ants often, although I must say we get more calls for rover ants and ghost ants. This ant species has multiple queens which make it a tricky ant species to deal with. They are best treated with a non-repellent spray rather than a repellent, but overall your best bet with pharaoh ant control is baiting, spraying(if any) would be on the exterior part of the structure. The problem is you may get one part of the infested under control but still have a problem in another room since the bait had not reached the other queens. in other words, this ant usually requires a few follow-up treatments, especially for a major infestation. Treated this ant with a repellent spray will only cause budding. This is why identification of the species is so important in Florida when dealing with ants and cockroaches.
This species of ant is tropical, although in can survive in even temperate conditions where inside heating is used. One dead give away of this ant is it’s trailing habits. This ant utilizes up to three pheromones and the several encounters I have had with them all stayed close to their specific pheromone trail. This ant can at times be confused with the ghost ant, not only for it’s size but the ghost ant may also stay close to a main trail when foraging. All the ants mentioned in this article, including other species of ants found in our area are commonly referred to as sugar ants which is inaccurate, especially when different species are called sugar ants, not properly identifying certain ant species will lead to unsuccessful control and possibly making the problem work. Beware of ant gels and baits that are sold in hardware stores and such places because they do not contain the same ingredients as the pest control industry standard baits.
Ghost ants and Pharaoh ants can be two of the hardest ants to control due to their tendency to bud whenever the colony is threatened. Remember to never spray these ants with store bought products as these are cheap repellents which will make the problem much worse; spreading the ants to other parts of the house. It simply isn't worth it. Needless to say, Meryl's Termites and Pest Control knows how to take care of all ant species occurring in our area of Marion, Lake, Sumter and Citrus counties, both domestic and invasive.
This brings us to the importance of identify the species.
It very important that you can correctly identify the species that you find. This is so vital to what we do, especially here in Florida where we have such an extensive range of pests, both domestic, and those invasive species that have accidentally been released in our sensitive ecosystem. Invasive species? That’s correct, Rover Ant’s, Argentine Ants, Imported Fire Ants, Australian Cockroaches, German Cockroaches(despite what the name might imply, German Cockroaches did not originate from Germany), Ghost Ants, to name only a few as there are many more. They thrive in our state due to the mild winters and generally humid conditions so identifying the species is really helpful.
Now for an example of why not all ants are created equal and need to be treated by identifying the species and type of the individual species. You may have encountered Ghost Ants, most people call the Sugar Ants, they are a very tiny ant that seem to pop up indoors usually around December due to lack of water, or for the warmth of the indoors . You may have noticed that if you sprayed them with Raid or something similar, they end up spreading, and popping up in another room. This is call budding, and you want to avoid this at all costs. Treatment would include an industrial strength bait(unfortunately the baits sold at hardware stores and the like lack the important ingredients for successful control), while only using a non-repellent spray, on the outside only. Any repellent spray will have them spreading though your house at a sometimes alarming rate. Furthermore, spraying should be limited and to reiterate, in most situations on the outside only if it is possible to track them back to their nest, which are sometimes multiple.
This is why pest control in Florida is so vital in identifying the species, if you do not understand the species you are dealing with, or have the right tools for the job. You could end up making the problem much worse than when it first started.