Yes, ants do eat insects. In fact, most if not all omnivorous ants prey on insects and feed on them. They eat a variety of insects including cockroaches, termites, bees, and even other ants, regardless if they’re dead or alive.
In this article we’ll discuss what insects ants eat, why they eat those insects, and how they do it.
What Insects Do Ants Eat?
As mentioned, ants may prey on and eat a variety of insects. But what are these insects exactly? Let’s find out.
Do Ants Eat Other Ants?
Yes, ants do eat other ants. In fact, ants are among the most common natural ant predators. Different ant colonies compete and even fight each other to the death. The aftermath? Dead ants that end up as food.
Some ants may also engage in cannibalism and eat members of the same colony. For example, wood ants have been shown to exhibit cannibalistic necrophagy and eat their own dead.
Do Ants Eat Cockroaches?
Yes, ants do eat cockroaches. Most ants eat them when they’re dead but some aggressive ants like army ants, red imported fire ants (RIFA), and Argentine ants are known to swarm, kill, and eat cockroaches whenever possible.
That said, cockroaches are quite tricky to catch as they often are capable of flight. Therefore, ants can only really prey on roaches when they’re injured or cornered enough to not be able to flee.
Do Ants Eat Termites?
Yes, ants do eat termites. In fact, there are some ants like the Megaponera analis which feed on termites exclusively.
Along with the M. analis are other species like the E. heliscata, Iridomyrmex rubriceps, Iridomyrmex sanguineus, and even the common carpenter ants, that are known to hunt and feed on termites.
Do Ants Eat Bees?
Yes, ants do eat bees. Most ants won’t hesitate to feed on a dead bee but only a few are known to actively prey on them.
Only certain ants such as carpenter ants, and fire ants target and raid weakened bee hives for bees, their brood, as well as honey, and nectar.
Do Ants Eat Aphids?
Yes, ants may sometimes eat aphids. Most of the time, even highly predatory ants like fire ants prefer to farm aphids for honeydew. So instead of eating them, ants build mutualistic relationships with aphids, offering them protection for the sweet substance they provide.
However, in some cases ants may eat aphids such as when food is scarce, or when ants find them to be a detriment to a much more beneficial relationship.
Do Ants Eat Mantises?
Yes, ants do eat mantises. Usually, it’s the mantises that prey on ants. However, they too may fall victim to ants if they get swarmed and overwhelmed. When that happens, ants will dismember them, cut them into small pieces, and take them back to their nests to eat.
Also, as with the other insects, ants won’t say no to a dead mantis.
Do Ants Eat Beetles?
Beetles are quite tricky for ants given that many have developed adaptations that not only allow them to escape from ants, but also trick ants into thinking that they’re friendly. This allows them to form parasitic relationships with ants as they feed on the colony’s food and sometimes prey on the ants and their larvae as well.
That said, ants do sometimes eat beetles especially when they’re dead. They’ll feed on beetle larvae whenever available.
Do Ants Eat Grasshoppers?
Ants do eat grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are the same as cockroaches in that they’re usually eaten by ants when they’re dead or injured as they are quite evasive. Occasionally though, grasshoppers may find themselves in the wrong place and land around foraging ants which then attack and take them back to the nests for eating.
Ants also feed on grasshopper eggs and hatchlings when available. Unlike adult grasshoppers, these eggs and hatchlings are vulnerable and quite susceptible to predation by ants.
Do Ants Eat Butterflies?
Yes, ants do eat butterflies but only when they’re dead or injured. Ants don’t usually hunt for butterflies as they can simply fly away. That said, ants won’t say no to a butterfly meal whenever they do catch them.
Ants also eat butterfly eggs and caterpillars. Unlike their adult form, eggs and caterpillars make for easier prey.
Do Ants Eat Moths?
Similar to butterflies, ants only eat moths when they can catch them and that’s usually when they’re dead or injured.
Likewise, ants also eat moth eggs and caterpillars.
Do Ants Eat Mosquitoes?
Yes, ants do as mosquitoes. As usual, ants often just eat dead mosquitoes they find lying around as mosquitoes are generally hard to catch.
Some ants also feed on mosquito larvae. The ant species Camponotus schmitzi, for example, is known to dive into the digestive juices of pitcher plants to eat arthropods including mosquito larvae or trapped mosquitoes.
Do Ants Eat Flies?
Ants do eat flies, but like with other insects that fly, ants only really eat flies when they’re dead and injured enough to not escape. Ants also eat fly larvae that they often encounter when they scavenge for food as these larvae feed on decomposing material.
Why Do Ants Eat Insects?
Ants are omnivores and detritivores, meaning they feed on a wide variety of food including living or dead plant and animal matter. As such, ants eat insects because they’re usually available to forage.
In some cases insects are also easy targets for predation given that they may share the same habitat and living conditions as ants. For example, carpenter ants feed on termites because they often encounter and fight each other in wood.
Aside from availability, ants eat insects because they’re very good nutritious food. While nutritional value may vary between insects, they generally provide carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins, and high amounts of protein.
All these nutrients allow ants to stay healthy, and ultimately help them survive.
Bees, for instance, provide carbohydrates for energy, and protein for growth and development.
They also provide ants with water soluble vitamins C and the B-vitamins that ants themselves cannot produce. These vitamins help with metabolism and other reactions in the body.
Lastly, bees provide minerals such as zinc and iron which help strengthen and sharpen the teeth and help with metabolism respectively.
How Do Ants Eat Insects?
As you may have already figured out, ants either prey on insects and kill them for consumption or scavenge for them and eat them when they’re dead.
While ants are relatively smaller and less mobile than their fellow six-legged arthropods, they make up for their shortcomings by using their physical tools and coming up with strategies that allow them to prey on a number of different insects.
For example, ants have been shown to use tiny holes in tree barks as hiding places to trap unsuspecting insects. When an insect leg falls into the hole, the hiding ant latches onto it to try and prevent the insect escaping. While this is happening other hiding ants help by pulling on the other legs and stretching the insect until they eventually have full control of it.
From there, ants may wait until the insect dies or attack it continuously with bites or stings to kill and eat it on the spot.
While some prefer strategy, other ants simply prefer a brute force approach such as the Matabele ants which straight up raid termite colonies.
Due to their predatory habits, ants are sometimes used as biological control agents against pests such as insects. For instance, weaver ants are tolerated by farmers in West Africa because they control fruit fly populations.
In Northern Australia, coconut growers use the predatory weaver ant species Oecophylla smaragdina to prevent immature nut fall caused by plant bugs and caterpillars.
The same species is also used by cashew farmers of the same area to control mosquitoes, bugs, and moths which cause damage to cashew trees and negatively affect harvest quality.
Ants are detritivores, meaning they eat dead or decaying matter. As such, ants don’t hesitate eating dead animals such as insects that they find when foraging. In fact, ants more commonly eat dead insects than they do living ones. It is usually only the highly predatory and aggressive ants that actively hunt other insects.
Do All Ants Eat Insects?
No, not all ants eat insects. While most ants are omnivorous and will feed on the variety of insects listed, there are some herbivorous ants that strictly feed on only plant matter. This includes nectar, pollen, fungi, vertebrate waste, and plant wound secretions.
Do Ants Eat Worms?
Yes, ants do eat worms. As omnivores ants will gladly feed on worms much as they would on insects. As with insects, ants often eat dead worms but certain predatory ants do also attack worms and eat them alive.
Do Ants Eat Spiders?
Yes, ants do also eat spiders. Again, as omnivores, ants eat pretty much anything and spiders are no exception. In fact, ants are considered to be primary predators of spiders in certain habitats so much so that some spiders have learned to sniff out ants to avoid them.
Summary: Do Ants Eat Insects?
To summarize, yes ants do eat insects. Ants are in fact common predators of a wide variety of insects including: cockroaches, termites, aphids, flies, butterflies, moths, termites, bees, and even other ants.