Ghost Ants in Potted Plant

Subject: Unknown bug
Location: Gainesville, FL
December 13, 2016 9:34 am
I found this swarm of little bugs after trying to watery cactus. There’s was thousands of them! All over the cactus! I don’t know what they are. Can you help? They were livingin the soul and carrying either eggs or larvae when I disturbed them.
Signature: Trevor Forrest

Ghost Ants

Dear Trevor,
The behavior you describe, “carrying either eggs or larvae when I disturbed them”, implies they are social insects like Ants, but the image you provided appears more like Booklice in the genus
Liposcelis which is pictured on BugGuide.  Alas, two of your attached images are too blurry to ascertain any details, and the third image does not provide a large enough view to be certain.  According to BugGuide, Booklice are found:  “worldwide and across NA; many spp. are now nearly cosmopolitan or otherwise widely spread through agency of man, mostly with stored products(” and their habitat is “under bark, in ant nests, in homes” which makes sense based on your account.  Booklice are considered benign unless they are plentiful enough to present a nuisance, or if they infest stored food products.  Since you seem pretty certain they were transporting eggs and larvae, we suspect they are most likely Ghost Ants, Tapinoma melanocephalum, which are also pictured on BugGuide and according to BugGuide:  “native to the Old World tropics, adventive elsewhere; in our area, established in FL (expanding) and reached TX in mid-1990s (prob. through Galveston on a shipment of plants from FL); infestations reported in many areas as far north as MB, but in cooler areas the ant can only survive indoors (greenhouses, etc.)”  We would favor the Ghost Ant ID.  If you get better images, please submit them.  Because we will be away from the office during the holidays, we are postdating your submission to go live at the end of the month.

Ghost Ants

Thank you for the info. I’m not quite sure they are either. I tried to get better pictures,  but they were moving really fast and everything came out blurry. I looked now and they are all back from where they came in the soil of the cactus. They did leave behind a bunch tiny white balls on the surface though.

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