While not all, many ant species do eat termites. In fact, ants are known to hunt and eat termites and are considered to be the primary predators to the latter.
Carpenter ants for example, share the same living conditions as termites and are thus natural rivals. When these carpenter ants come across termites as they drill through wood, they don’t hesitate to kill and eat them to the point of even wiping out termite colonies.
Another ant species which feeds on termites is the Megaponera analis. This strictly termite-eating ant species specializes in hunting termites and are known to raid termite nests throughout the day with three to five raids occurring daily.
They’re commonly known for their column-like raiding formation composed of a large number of workers, and are due to their raiding behavior named Matabele ants as named after fierce warriors of the Matabele tribe.
In this article, we’ll look deeper into this predatory relationship as we discuss why ants eat termites and how they hunt them down to eat them.
Why Do Ants Eat Termites?
As highly opportunistic eaters, ants eat pretty much everything from nectar and honeydew to dead matter. So it isn’t surprising that ants eat termites. To them they’re simply a food source to rely on for energy and nutrition, and a good one at that.
Termites are soft-bodied and fleshy insects, making them quite easy to eat. Also, their colonies consist of thousands to even a million termites, and are thus enough to feed ant colonies of similar size. Furthermore, they’re also rich in protein, iron, calcium, and essential acids which ants need to survive.
There’s also the fact that, as mentioned previously, some ants share the same living conditions as termites. This makes them direct competitors, not just for the territory itself, but also all the resources that it provides.
As such, some ants and termites commonly fight each other with the ants typically being the aggressors seeking to wipe out the termite colony. In the aftermath these fights, dead termites end up as ant food.
How Do Ants Hunt Termites?
Ants are actually quite creative and hunt termites in a variety of ways. For example, Matabele ants, as we’ve discussed, hunt termites by conducting raids. They do so by gathering thousands of workers to attack termite nests previously discovered by scouts.
On the other hand the ant species E. heliscata hunt termites by pressing themselves in tight spaces inside the wood that termites live in. There, they wait and seize any termites they encounter with their mandibles.
Meanwhile, some species like the Iridomyrmex rubriceps and the Iridomyrmex sanguineus play it smart and may sometimes build their nests in termite mounds, allowing them to regularly prey on termite workers.
Ants For Termite Control
While it may seem like a theoretically good idea to make use of ants for termite control, it doesn’t actually work as well in reality. Sure, ants can deter termites and possibly remove them from your home. But there simply is no guarantee.
For instance, some ants deliberately stop attacking before completely wiping out a termite colony for the purpose of preserving their food source.
There’s also the fact that ants can be pests as well. Carpenter ants, which we’ve established to share the same living conditions as termites, can end up damaging wood as they excavate to build their nests.
Finally, who’s to say that ants won’t start invading your kitchen and go through your own food?
So at the end of the day, if you have termite problems you’d be better off relying on an exterminator instead of ants.
Do Ants Eat Aphids?
Aggressive ant species may sometimes eat aphids. In most cases however, ants simply develop a mutualistic relationship with them by providing them protection in exchange for their honeydew.
Do Ants Eat Each Other?
Yes, ants do eat each other. Some species like fire ants are known to prey on other ant species. They invade nests and thrive on eating the larvae of other colonies. Some ant species also perform cannibalistic necrophagy, a behavior characterized by the consumption of their own dead.
Ants are considered to be the primary predators of termites. They conduct raids and other strategies to hunt down and feed on termites and their larvae.
And why not? Termites provide them with necessary nutrients, and are numerous enough to feed an entire colony.
They’re also natural competitors and often encounter each other, leading to hostility and fights. When these fights occur, ants tend to overpower termites to the point of possibly wiping out the entire termite colony. In the aftermath, ants feast on the spoils of war.