Ants kill their prey using their chemical and physical weapons. Some ants, for example, use chemical warfare by stinging or spraying toxins on their prey. On the other hand, some ants rely on brute strength and dismember their prey with their mandibles.
In this article, we’ll learn more about how ants kill their prey as we discuss the following:
- Chemical warfare: Ant stings and sprays
- Physical methods of ant killing
- How ants find their prey
- Ingenious ways some ants catch their prey
Ants use a variety of toxins to kill their prey, including venom and formic acid. They use these toxins on their prey by stinging or spraying.
Ants are hymenopterans. This means that they’re closely related to insects like bees and wasps. Like these insects, ants can sting and inject their prey with venom. This venom can paralyze or kill their prey.
For example, fire ants are notorious as stinging ants. They get their name from the burning sensation produced by their stings. However, not only do their stings hurt, they can also be fatal. They can cause anaphylactic reactions which may lead to shock and death.
When fire ants hunt, they do so in groups. They attack their prey by swarming and overpowering them. They latch on to them with their strong mandibles and sting them all at once and repeatedly. In doing so, they can subdue much larger prey than other ants. They can kill and feed on lizards, birds, and other small animals.
Read this article to learn more about fire ants.
Some ants can’t sting. Instead, they spray a toxin called formic acid from their abdomens. This acid irritates and subdues their prey.
Yellow crazy ants, for example, spray formic acid to agitate and blind their victims. They then swarm and proceed to dismember them.
Physical Methods of Ant Killing
Not all ants sting or spray acid. In fact, some ants don’t use chemicals on their prey at all. Instead, these ants rely on their physical tools, brute strength, and coordinated attacks.
Army ants are the prime example of physical ants. They conduct mass raids and overpower any prey they encounter. They swarm and use their strong mandibles to dismember them. Together they can attack and prey on large arthropods like cockroaches and scorpions. See this article to learn more about army ants.
Some ants also impale their prey with their apical teeth. Ant teeth are sharp. They’re infused with zinc atoms and can cut like scalpels.
How Do Ants Find Their Prey?
Ants use a combination of visual, chemical, and auditory cues to find their prey. For example, some ants rely on their keen sense of smell to detect the chemical trails left by their prey. They follow these trails until they locate the source of the scent.
Other ants use their eyesight to detect movement and spot their prey from a distance. They can also detect vibrations on the ground to pinpoint prey location.
Interesting Ways Ants Catch Their Prey
Ants usually catch their prey through raids and launching coordinated attacks. Some ants though, have learned to use traps to ambush unsuspecting victims.
Azteca brevis ants, for example, have a unique way of capturing large prey. These ants take advantage of a fungus that grows on tree branches. They dig tiny holes and build a nest beneath the fungus, which they use to ambush their prey. 
When a crawling insect’s foot falls into a hole, the ant latches on and begins pulling. Other ants then emerge from other holes to help trap the insect, preventing it from escaping. Once secured, more ants then come out of the tree holes to attack their helpless victim.
In a similar fashion, Pheidole oxyops ants use feathers as bait to lure their prey into their nests. They wait for prey like mites, springtails, and springtails to fall in. When they do, they quickly subdue them. 
Do Ants Kill Their Own?
Yes, ants do sometimes kill other ants and even their own colony mates. They do so for a variety of reasons including:
- Competition: Ant colonies that nest close to each other fight and kill each other for valuable resources such as food.
- Colony health: Ants sometimes assassinate their queen when its reproductive capability deteriorates. This allows them to put up a stronger queen as a replacement.
- Population Control: Some ants kill each other to prevent overpopulation. This is to make sure the colony does not run out of resources.
- Miscommunication: Ants can sometimes fight and kill each other due to miscommunication. This occurs when ants pick up the wrong odor cues from their colony mates and fail to identify each other.
See this article to learn more about ants fighting each other.
Why Do Ants Carry Their Dead?
Ants carry their dead to remove them from the colony. In doing so, they prevent the spread of disease and maintain nest hygiene.
Summary: How Do Ants Kill Their Prey?
To summarize, ants kill their prey by using their chemical and physical weapons. Some ants, for example, sting and inject paralyzing venom into their prey. Other ants spray formic acid to blind and confuse their victims before swarming them.
There are also some ants that don’t use chemicals at all. These ants rely on their mandibles and teeth to impale, crush, and dismember their prey.