lives in trees
lives on ground
Scientific name: Tapinoma melanocephalum
Size: approximately 1.5 mm
General description: this very tiny ant is distinctly two-coloured. It emits the smell of rotten coconuts when disturbed or crushed
Habitat and nesting: the ghost ant is a ground or tree dwelling species that establishes readily in disturbed habitats. The ant nests in plant stems, dry grass, leaf litter, rubbish and debris.
Rate of spread: unknown.
Distribution: see our invasive ant distributions page for the worldwide distribution of the ghost ant.
Reproduction: unknown, most likely by budding.
For detailed descriptions and identification of ghost ants:
PIAkey: Tapinoma melanocephalum (see diagnostic characters tab)
Ghost ants foraging on flowers (© Phil Lester)
Close-up of a ghost ant worker (© Eli Sarnat, Creative Commons Attribution, Share Alike CC BY-SA Licence)
Ghost ants foraging on a sugar bait (© Eli Sarnat, Creative Commons Attribution, Share Alike CC BY-SA Licence)
Social, agricultural and environmental impacts of the ghost ant
The ghost ant is a pest in homes where it is attracted to sweet substances and can be a major annoyance in kitchens. Some people experience a mild, red skin irritation after contact with this species. This ant has been reported to tend sap-sucking insects, however, it is not considered a significant agricultural pest.
AntWiki, Ghost ant
Biosecurity New Zealand Invasive Ant Threat Information Sheet number 32, Ghost ant
Global Invasive Species Database (GISD)
Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species (GRIIS)
Island Biodiversity and Invasive Species Database (IBIS)
PIAkey, Ghost ant
University of Florida, Ghost ant
Content reviewed by Eli Sarnat, Antwork Consulting, LLC, June 2017