Yes, ants are beneficial. In fact, ecologists consider them to be a keystone species. They contribute largely to environmental diversity, productivity, and nutrient and energy flow.
In this article, we’ll look into how ants are beneficial as we discuss the benefits they provide. We’ll also look into the flip side of things as we touch on some cases wherein ants become pests instead.
Benefits Of Ants
There are quadrillions of ants around the world. So while one ant may not make much of a difference, in the quadrillions they’re bound to make an impact.
Sich is why ants scientists consider ants to be ecologically important. They are in fact, often used as a sign of ecological health. They provide the environment with the following benefits:
Ants Aerate and Till Soil
Many ant species dig and tunnel underground to build their nests. In doing so they aerate the soil which allows for better air and water penetration.
At the same time, their tunneling efforts also help in tilling the soil. They help bring nutrients and pebbles to the topsoil.
Ants Fertilize the Soil
As ants forage, they naturally bring organic matter underneath the soil. When these organic matters decompose, they become natural fertilizers that nourish the soil.
Ants are Pollinators
Ants are frequent visitors of plants and flowers for nectar. In these visits, pollen naturally attaches to their bodies. Ants may then transport them to other flowers and help with germination.
In fact, research has shown that some plants are regularly pollinated by ants. These include Polygonum cascadence and Conospermum undulatum.
See this article to learn more about ants as pollinators.
Ants Help with Seed Dispersal
Ants are a major force in seed dispersal. There are more than 3000 species of flowering plants dispersed by ants. 
This is mostly due to the mutualistic relationship that plants develop with ants. Some plant seeds produce fleshy structures called elaiosomes.
These elaiosomes are rich in lipids and proteins and work great as ant lures. Ants eat them without damaging the seed, and therefore significantly help with dispersal.
Ants Help Control Pests
While sometimes pests themselves, ants help with pest control. They’re natural predators of many different pests like mosquitoes and other bugs. In fact, farmers often use ants to protect their crops.
Ants Serve as Food
Ants aren’t the only ones doing the eating. They also serve as food for many animals such as birds, mammals, and other insects. Even we humans consume them.
Ants Clean the Environment
As decomposers, ants consume and break down organic waste and dead matter. In doing so, they help prevent waste from piling up and stop the spread of disease.
Ants Help Recycle Nutrients
As ants break down organic waste, they also help recycle nutrients. They make these nutrients available to producers which then provide for other consumers.
Disadvantages of Ants
Despite the many benefits they provide, ants can also become a nuisance. Here are some disadvantages of ants:
Ants like the ever notorious, fire ants can be quite aggressive. This aggressiveness can force out other animals or alter their behavior.
Bees, for example, have learned to avoid plants that smell of ants. This in turn, negatively affects floral visitation and seed dispersal. 
Even we humans aren’t safe from ant aggression. Aggressive ants will bite or sting us when we get close. In fact, there are many documented cases of deaths caused by aggressive ants.
Ants are one of the cleanest insects in the world. However, they may sometimes carry pathogens that cause disease and contaminate our food. These pathogens include E.coli, Shigella, and Salmonella.
See this article to learn more about ant cleanliness.
Ants can damage plants in a number of ways. These ways include the following:
- Direct Damage: Some ants bite down and physically harm plants. Leafcutter ants, for example, cut down leaves for their fungal gardens.
- Tunneling: While tunneling can help aerate the soil, too much can be detrimental. As ants tunnel, they may eventually loosen the soil to the point of uprooting plants
- Pest Mutualism: Ants form mutualistic relationships with plant pests like aphids. They protect these pests from predators and allow their population to grow. These pests directly feed on plants and negatively affect plant growth.
See this article to learn if ants are bad for plants.
There are a number of ants known to infest wood. These include carpenter, moisture, and velvety tree ants.
These ants damage wood as they build their nests. They carve through wood to create tunnels and galleries to live in. When left unchecked, they may cause significant damage similar to termites.
Read this article to learn more about wood-infesting ants.
Should You Get Rid of Ants?
It depends. As established, ants can either be beneficial or disadvantageous. Therefore, it will be up to you to determine if you need to get rid of ants or not.
I personally, wouldn’t unless they become pests. I’ll only try to get rid of them when they cause damage or pose a threat. For example, I would generally get rid of fire ants because they’re dangerous to my pets.
Summary: Are Ants Beneficial?
To summarize, ants are beneficial. They provide a number of benefits including the following:
- Improve Soil Health
- Pollination and Seed Dispersal
- Pest Control
- Serve as Food
- Cleaning the Environment
- Recycle Nutrients
With their vast numbers, ants have a profound impact on the environment. Even with their minute bodies, they help ecosystems thrive and allow even we humans to live.