Yes, ants eat seeds. In fact, some ants prey on seeds. These ants collect and totally consume them. Other ants also eat a specific part of seeds called the elaiosome.
In this article, we’ll learn more about ants eating seeds as we discuss the following:
- How ants eat seeds
- Why ants eat seeds
- Which ants eat seeds
- Which seeds ants eat
We’ll also look into seed dispersal by ants and how to keep them away from the seeds in your garden.
How Do Ants Eat Seeds?
There are 2 ways that ants eat seeds. The first is a form of antagonism by means of seed predation or granivory. In this method, ants totally consume the seed. They leave it damaged and not viable.
On the other hand, the second method involves an ant-plant mutualism. In this method, ants only eat a part of the seed called the elaiosome. In doing so, they don’t damage the seed and effectively help disperse it. 
Why Do Ants Eat Seeds?
Ants eat seeds because they’re nutritious. Regardless of the method of consumption, seeds provide ants with the following: 
Seeds and elaiosomes both contain starch. This starch provides ants with the carbohydrates they need to fuel their bodies.
Carbohydrates are also used as building blocks for the construction of chitin. Chitin is a major component of the ant’s exoskeleton.
Seeds and elaiosomes also provide ants with lipids. These lipids serve as an alternative energy source during reproduction, starvation, and diapause.
They can also be broken down into fatty acids that serve as building blocks for cuticular waxes.
Lastly, seeds and elaiosomes are also good sources of protein. Ants break down these proteins into amino acids. They then use these amino acids to build or replace enzymes, hormones, and proteins they need.
Which Ants Eat Seeds?
Most ants eat seeds. There are a wide variety of ants attracted to elaiosomes. These include ants from the following genera:
What’s rare are actual ant predators. There are only a few ants that classify as granivores or actually eat the seeds completely. These ants are commonly known as harvester ants.
They include the following species:
- Pogonomyrmex barbatus
- Messor andrei
- Veromessor pergandei
- Pheidole providens
Which Seeds Do Ants Eat?
Ants eat all types of seeds. Ant predators specifically eat any seed that they can break open. These include grass seeds, tree seeds, and even exotic seeds like filaree and mustard.
There are of course, also the myrmecochorous plants that produce seeds with elaiosomes. These plants include trilliums, wild ginger, bloodroot, violets, spurges, and pincushions.
Seed Dispersal by Ants
As a result of eating seeds, ants help greatly with seed dispersal. This is especially true for diaspores or seeds with elaiosomes. 
Seed dispersal by ants occurs when foraging workers take diaspores to their nests. After consumption, the seeds are usually discarded either in middens or out of the nest. Either way, these are favorable locations for germination due to the following reasons:
- Fire safety: Seeds carried into nests are more protected from fires than those that aren’t.
- Predator safety: The presence of ants near the location deters other seed predators. Also, predators are less likely to discover dispersed seeds as they’re not concentrated.
- Access to nutrients: Locations near ant nests generally have high levels of nutrients. These nutrients are important for plant growth.
Even granivorous ants help with seed dispersal. This occurs when they unintentionally drop seeds or don’t eat them after collection.
How to Keep Ants Away from Your Plant Seeds
It’s not unusual for ants to steal seeds. After all, ants are attracted to seeds as a food source. This can be quite a nuisance if you’ve carefully organized and planted seeds in your garden.
You can prevent this issue through the following methods:
Use Natural Repellents
You can use a variety of natural products to deter ants. These include cinnamon, black pepper, lemon juice, and vinegar. Sprinkle or apply these around the base of your plants or seed storage.
You can also make use of plants that help deter ants. These plants include rosemary, lavender, catnip, mint, and peppermint.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a chalky powder made from diatom shells. Farmers often use DE as a non-toxic means to manage ant populations. It gets rid of ants by causing them to die of dehydration.
Use DE as a barrier by sprinkling it around your plants, seeds, and ant trails.
See this article to learn more about diatomaceous earth.
If you’re facing a persistent ant problem, you can create homemade ant baits with borax. Mix borax with sugar water and place them near affected areas.
Just note that borax is toxic. Take caution when using it around children and pets.
If you’re keeping seeds indoors, use airtight containers to prevent access. Ensure the containers are clean and free of other ant attractants.
What are Elaiosomes?
Elaiosomes are fleshy structures attached to the seeds of myrmecochorous plants. They’re rich in lipids and proteins and are especially attractive to ants.
Which Part of the Seeds Do Ants Eat?
Most ants only eat the elaiosomes. However, seed predators eat the starch and totally consume seeds.
Do Ants Store Seeds in the Nest?
Yes, ants store seeds in their nests. Harvester ants store seeds in communal chambers called granaries.
Do Ants Eat Seedlings?
Yes, ants do eat seedlings. Fire ants, for example, can damage seedlings by feeding on their stems.
Read this article to find out if ants eat plants.
Summary: Do Ants Eat Seeds?
To summarize, ants do eat seeds. Ants can eat seeds in 2 ways. Some ants fully consume them and leave them damaged. On the other hand, some ants only eat elaiosomes.
Either way, seeds are a nutritious food source for ants. They provide ants with carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. All of these help ants survive and function.