Yes, ants do eat bees. While the vast majority of ant species won’t harm bees, most will eat them when they’re dead. There are also certain ants such as carpenter ants, and fire ants, which not only eat dead bees but will also target and raid weakened bee hives for bees, their brood, honey, and nectar.
It’s interesting that despite the similarities between ants and bees such as being hymenopterans and being among the few animals that exhibit eusociality, that they somehow don’t get along.
Such is why in this article, we’ll discuss why ants eat bees, if all ants eat bees, and determine which ants are known to prey and feed on bees.
Why Do Ants Eat Bees?
Ants eat bees, because they’re highly opportunistic eaters. While different ant species may have their own dietary preferences, most ants are omnivores. This means that they eat food from plants, animals, and other sources. Additionally, ants are also detritivores which consume organic waste and dead matter.
Overall, ants pretty much feed on whatever food they can get their hands on and bees or their brood are no exception.
It also doesn’t help that bees are quite nutritious for ants. Both bees and their brood provide a good amount of protein and fatty acids.
They also provide a variety of minerals including iron and zinc.
Furthermore, bee brood in particular, also provides carbohydrates and is considered a good source of B-vitamins and vitamin C.
All these nutrients and minerals provide ants what they need to survive.
The carbohydrates from bee brood, for instance, serve as a source of energy and provide ants fuel for their cellular processes.
The proteins can also be used in the same way or be broken down to build or replace enzymes, hormones, and other proteins needed for the ants’ muscles, cuticles, and many other purposes.
As for vitamins, bees provide ants with water soluble vitamins C and the B-vitamins which ants can’t produce themselves. These vitamins are used as coenzymes that help with metabolism and other reactions in the ant body.
Lastly, ants use the iron and zinc from bees for oxidative metabolism and to maintain the sharpness of mandibular teeth, respectively.
Do All Ants Eat Bees?
Not all ants eat bees. Some ants are herbivores and don’t bother bees at all as they only ever feed on plant material. Apart from these ants however, most if not all omnivorous ants will happily feast on dead bees.
As mentioned, there are even those that go out of their way to invade hives to prey and eat bees and their brood. These predatory ants include the following:
- Carpenter Ants. Carpenter ants are large, typically reddish to blackish ants from the genus Camponotus. They’re mostly known for being wood pests but are also among the ants that feed on bees and bee brood. Specific species which target bees include Camponotus pennsylvanicus, Camponotus planatus, Camponotus floridanus, and Camponotus tortuganus.
- Crazy Ants. Crazy ants are relatively smaller ants with reddish color and tiny hairs on their bodies. They’re known for their erratic movement and their large populations which drive out other organisms such as other ants and bees. Specific crazy ant species which target bees include Paratrechina longicornis, Nylanderia bourbonica, and Nylanderia fulva.
- Fire Ants. Fire ants are small reddish ants known in particular for their painful stings. They’re highly aggressive and are one of the most hostile ant species. They have large populations and launch coordinated attacks on their victims which typically include other small animals.
For the most part, these predators are content with simply foraging for dead bees that fall on the ground. However, they won’t hesitate to attack hives when they sense weakness.
Worst case, they’ll infest hives to a point that the bees have no choice but to pack their bags and abscond. When that happens, the ants takeover and use the abandoned honeycombs as their nests.
Can Ants and Bees Get Along?
Not exactly. Excluding the aforementioned predatory ants, ants and bees typically ignore each other which may make it seem that they can get along. However, ants and bees tend to compete when they do interact, with the ants typically being the aggressor.
Apart from attacking hives and preying on bee brood, ants also attack and harrass bees to prevent them from accessing nectar from flowers. In fact, they do so to the extent that even their scent deters bees from coming close.
Do Ants Eat Other Insects?
Yes, ants do eat other insects. Again, ants are generally opportunistic eaters and will pretty much eat anything that they can. Aside from bees, ants may also eat cockroaches, butterflies, and even their fellow ants.
Summary: Do Ants Eat Bees?
To summarize, yes ants do eat bees. As omnivores and detritivores at the same time, ants are pretty much willing to eat any food that they come across including bee brood and even dead bees.
That said, while most ants wouldn’t pass up a dead bee, only a few would actually attack bee hives to prey on bee brood.
These select ants include carpenter ants, crazy ants, and the ever notorious fire ants. These ants will raid and attack weak hives to prey on brood and steal nectar or honey.