Do Ants Eat Cockroaches? Do They Keep Cockroaches Away?
Ants do eat cockroaches, especially dead ones. Most ants don’t bother live roaches and only eat dead ones that they come across when they forage and try to find food. However, there are aggressive species such as the red imported fire ants (RIFA) and Argentine ants that prey on them. These aggressive ants, when possible, will swarm, kill, and feed on cockroaches.
Why Do Ants Eat Cockroaches?
Ants eat cockroaches because they’re highly opportunistic eaters that will eat almost anything they can get their mandibles on. Generally omnivores and detritivores, they eat plants and a variety of meat sources including living and dead insects like bees, termites, and cockroaches. If desperate, they’ll also eat other ants even if they’re from the same colony.
It also helps that cockroaches are quite nutritious for ants. In fact, research suggests that cockroaches are even nutritious to us humans.
Research has discovered that cockroaches are jam-packed with different nutrients. For example, cockroaches provide a good amount of protein which ants can use or break down to build or replace enzymes, hormones, and other proteins needed for growth and development.
Cockroaches also provide carbohydrates which ants need for energy and respiration. Furthermore, they also provide a good amount of moisture which helps prevent ants from drying up.
Lastly, cockroaches have also been determined to be rich on both micro and macro minerals including:
- Calcium: A mineral important in the egg production, larval development and physiological regulation of ants.
- Magnesium: A mineral that hardens the exoskeleton. It helps prevent infections and increases survival of workers in certain ant species.
- Potassium: An essential mineral that helps regulate nerve function and muscle repair.
- Phosphorus: A component of the cell membrane that is necessary for the growth, maintenance, and repair of all ant tissues and cells.
- Sodium: A mineral that helps maintain fluid balance and promote healthy muscular and nerve function.
- Manganese: A mineral which hardens and sharpens certain parts of the ant body.
- Zinc: Similar to manganese, zinc is a mineral which enhances, hardens, and sharpens ant teeth.
Ants That Eat Cockroaches
Almost every ant will be happy to feast on a dead nutritious cockroach but only a few actively prey on them. As mentioned, most ants apart from certain aggressive species bother roaches when they’re alive. These ants that eat roaches alive include:
- Fire Ants: These ants represent a number of species from the genus Solenopsis. They get their name from their painful stings that inject venom and paralyze their prey. They’re also known for being highly aggressive omnivorous ants which mostly feed on small animals such as lizards, birds, and insects like cockroaches and flies. Their aggressive predatory behavior usually suppresses the population of other insects and reduces wildlife in the affected area.
- Army Ants: Army ants are highly aggressive, nomadic ants notorious for causing destruction to everything in their path. They freely attack whatever they come across, feeding primarily on other species of ants, other insects, and even larger prey like scorpions, lizards, frogs, and nestling birds. A study on the effect of foraging army ants on other arthropods show a 38% decrease in the abundance of cockroaches. This was said to be similar to the result of another study which showed a 50% decrease.
- Argentine Ants: Argentine ants are highly aggressive ants with an appetite for other insects. They make up for the lack of a deadly sting through numbers as they form large colonies with fully cooperative workers. With their numbers, they can kill and displace other invertebrates hence making them a threat to biodiversity. As far as cockroaches go, these ants are among the small number of ants that have been shown to eat live cockroaches in studies.
Do Ants Keep Cockroaches Away?
While some ants may indeed prey and feed on cockroaches, it’s unlikely for them to totally keep them away and prevent a cockroach infestation. Cockroaches aren’t necessarily easy to catch, especially as some can fly whereas worker ants can’t. It’s no wonder that ants only actually kill cockroaches when they’re cornered or too injured to flee.
Also, keep in mind that to use ants for pest control, they’d need to be in large numbers. This then invites another problem as ants too can be pests. In fact, an Argentine or fire ant infestation can be just as bad if not worse than a few cockroaches in and around your house. So think twice before you deploy a swarm of ants to try and get rid of cockroaches.
What Are Some More Effective Methods of Cockroach Control?
If ants do not keep cockroaches away from your home, then what does? Well there are certainly better methods to get rid of roaches without having to let loose potential pests in your home. These methods are as follows:
- Traps: Traps are effective and easily accessible devices you can use to catch and get rid of roaches that wander around your home. These traps use baits or scents that lure in cockroaches to trap them in a glue like substance.
- Baits: Baits are insecticides disguised as food. They’re presented as a food source which lures in roaches and leads them to ingesting the toxic matter. A benefit to baits is that roaches may take them back to their nests and lead other roaches to their demise.
- Borax: Borax is an easily accessible laundry product which works as an insecticide. When roaches ingest borax they’ll eventually dry up due to dehydration. Use them alongside a food source such as table sugar to create a homemade bait.
- Baking Soda: Baking soda works similar to borax in that it’s used alongside a food source to force cockroaches to ingest it. Once ingested, it causes severe pressure to expand the cockroach’s guts and eventually kill them.
- Liquid Concentrates: Liquid concentrates contain toxic materials that help deter cockroaches. They’re typically sprayed into cracks and crevices where cockroaches tend to hide.
- Diatomaceous Earth: More commonly known as DE, diatomaceous earth is a chalky powder made from diatom shells. They function similarly to borax such that they penetrate the exoskeleton dehydrate cockroaches to death.
Note however, that these methods are not always foolproof and usually only work with small infestations. Therefore, when all else fails, don’t hesitate to call for professional help.
Do Cockroaches Eat Ants?
Yes, cockroaches do eat ants. As omnivorous scavengers, cockroaches will eat almost everything. They eat dead ants and other dead insects.
Can Roaches and Ants Live Together?
Believe it or not, ants and cockroaches can actually live together. Cockroaches of the genus Attaphila form symbiotic relationships with leafcutter ant colonies. They mask their scent and mimic their host colony’s specific cuticular profile to make it seem like they’re part of the group. They do so to get access to and feed on fungus that the leafcutter ants cultivate.
Summary: Do Ants Eat Cockroaches?
To summarize, yes ants do eat cockroaches. Much like how they eat other insects, most ants eat roaches when they’re dead. There are some aggressive ant species however, that will also eat them alive. As such, there’s an idea of ants being able to prevent cockroaches. However, ants can be a nuisance if not dangerous as well. Therefore, it’s not ideal to invite ants into a home. They’re simply not as effective in dealing with cockroaches as other methods and may even cause more damage as pests.