Are Ants Edible? Are They Safe To Eat?
Yes, ants are edible. They’re eaten by humans in many parts of the world. They taste good and provide a good amount of nutrients. They’ve been regarded as a superfood and a sustainable alternative to animal protein.
In this article we’ll learn more about ants as food as we discuss the following:
- Popular edible ants
- How people prepare and eat ants
- What ants taste like
- Nutritional value of ants
- Benefits of eating ants
- Ants as alternatives to animal protein
- Risks of eating ants
Popular Edible Ants
There are more than 10,000 species of ants and not all are safe for consumption. There are only a handful of ants eaten by people in different parts of the world. These ants include the following:
- Honeypot Ants: Honeypot ants, also known as honey ants, are a species of ant mostly found in Australia. They are known for their unique ability to store food in their bodies. Their abdomens can swell up and serve as jars of nectar.
- Weaver Ants: Weaver ants are popular edible ants found in Southeast Asia. They construct their nests by weaving leaves with their larval silk.
- Leafcutter Ants: Leafcutter ants are tropical ants found in the Americas. They are known for their behavior of cutting and collecting leaves and flowers. They use these leaves and flowers to cultivate their fungal gardens.
How Do People Eat Ants?
Ants may not be a typical food item in many cultures, but they’re consumed in a variety of ways. It depends on a number of factors including species, region, and cultural preferences.
In some regions, ants are eaten raw as a snack. In Australia for example, honeypot ants are considered delicacies eaten straight from digging. Sometimes they’re also stored and used as ingredients for desserts. 
In others, they’re used as condiments or ingredients in meals and soups. Some people also use them as toppings for salads.
What Do Ants Taste Like?
Ants taste differently depending on species and method of preparation. In general, they’re said to be quite flavorful. Here’s how the commonly eaten ants taste:
- Honeypot Ants: Sweet or sour depending on the source of the nectar. They are said to sometimes produce a sweeter taste than honey.
- Weaver Ants: Sweet fruity or citrusy taste with a light crunch.
- Leaf-cutter Ants: Smoky, bacon-like taste when roasted.
Ants are also said to taste spicy. This is due to the formic acid that they produce. This formic acid reacts with the receptors in the mouth to produce a burning sensation.
Nutritional Value of Ants
Ants are not only a tasty snack but also a good source of nutrition. They’re energy-dense foods that are high in protein, fiber, and vitamins. Additionally, they also provide minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. 
Due to their nutrient content, ants have been considered to be a superfood.
Benefits Of Eating Ants
Outside of nutrition, eating ants can also provide other benefits to human health. These benefits include the following:
- Antioxidants: Research has found that ants have comparable antioxidant properties to orange juice. This suggests that ants may be able to prevent the onset of certain medical conditions. 
- Medicinal Use: In some cultures, ants are consumed for medicinal purposes. They’re believed to help cure several diseases like arthritis and hepatitis. Research has also found that some ants have antimicrobial properties. These properties work against disease-causing pathogens like Shigella and E.coli. [4, 5, 6]
Ants as Alternatives for Animal Protein
There have been growing concerns over the environmental impact of meat production. With that, many are turning to alternative sources of protein. These alternatives include insects like ants.
Some people view ants as an ideal alternative to meat. For one, they’re more sustainable compared to traditional livestock. They require less space, water, and food to produce the same amount of protein.
They can be harvested in ways that do not harm the environment. We can simply collect them from their natural habitats. There’s no need for intensive farming practices or deforestation.
Additionally, ants emit fewer greenhouse gases than livestock. Meaning that switching to an ant diet may help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 
Overall, ants offer a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to animal protein. They can help feed a growing global population with minimal environmental impact.
Is It Safe to Eat Ants? Possible Risks
While consuming ants may provide many benefits, they also present several risks. They can, for example, trigger allergic reactions. People allergic to shrimp, shellfish, and chocolates are highly discouraged from eating ants.
Ants can also carry and transmit disease-causing pathogens. Research has found that some ants contain fecal contaminants and pathogens like Salmonella.
See this article to learn more about how ants are dangerous.
Should You Eat Ants?
If you’re down to try, then why not? The consumption of ants isn’t as weird or uncommon as we think. Many cultures have considered ants as food for many years. Plus they’re said to taste good and provide a number of benefits.
Just note that not everyone can safely eat ants. Again, those allergic to other food like shrimp are discouraged from eating ants.
Also, not all ants are ideal for consumption. Some ants have stingers and may just happen to sting you as you try to eat them.
If you ever do try them, limit yourself to the commonly eaten ants discussed.
Can You Eat Ants for Survival?
Yes, you can eat ants for survival. In fact, a 62-year-old grandfather managed to survive the dry Australian wilderness by eating ants. He survived for six days sustaining himself on ants. This garnered him the nickname “Ant-Man”. He was also quoted saying that the ants he consumed tasted quite good.
Is It Safe To Eat Ant Infested Food?
Ants are clean insects, so it can be safe to eat ant-infested food. Again though, it’s possible for ants to carry disease-causing pathogens. So, depending on where the ants have been, they may cause contamination.
To be safe, I would not recommend eating ant-infested food.
How Do I Keep Ants Away From Food?
Here are some tips to keep ants away from food:
- Clean up food spills and crumbs: Keep your kitchen clean and free of food debris. Wipe up spills immediately and sweep or vacuum crumbs from the floor.
- Store food in airtight containers: Ants can detect food left out in the open. Store food in airtight containers or the refrigerator.
- Seal cracks and crevices: Ants can enter your home through small cracks and openings. Seal any gaps in walls, floors, or windows to prevent ants from entering.
Summary: Are Ants Edible?
To summarize, yes ants are edible. They are eaten by many humans around the world as snacks and condiments. They are said to taste quite well and are packed with nutrients. They have the potential to be sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives to meat.