Ants | Home Pests

What Eats Ants? A Complete List of Predators

If you are dealing with an ant infestation, you may be wondering if there is anything that is a natural predator for these irritating creatures. There are a number of different insects and animals that eat ants for food. Some of them you might already have in your home. Others may be wild animals that you will never see, but they could help with the ant problem.

To help you understand the options you have when it comes to getting rid of ants, we’ve provided a complete list of predators below. 

Bugs that Consume Ants 

Ants are some of the most resilient creatures on earth. On their own, they’re small and almost defenseless. However, in large colonies, they are a force to be reckoned with. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there are no predators that can take them down. If you are curious about the insects that consume ants, the list is fairly long. 

Ants are fairly low on the food chain and are actually a source of nutrition for many creatures. They are high in vitamins, protein, and fat – which means they’re a common source of food for a wide variety of insects. 

Antlions 

The antlion is not a very well-known insect species. It feeds exclusively on ants. These insects are fairly widespread, with approximately 2,000 different species spread across the world. 

The primary reason you never see them is that they are nocturnal. 

Adults have large wingspans and long cylindrical bodies. They are extremely powerful predators and have a strong appetite for arthropods and ants. 

Adult antlions will consume ants that happen to cross paths with them. However, the larvae are quite cunning. Antlion larvae, also known as doodlebugs, burrow in loose soil and when an ant falls in, they are unable to get back out. 

The doodlebugs wait at the bottom of this pit for the ants and then use their powerful jaws to munch on them until they are ready to transform into adults. 

Butterflies 

Butterflies are beautiful creatures that you may not realize also eat ants. The species that have the most extreme feeding habits are blue butterflies. These gorgeous creatures are real eye-catchers due to their gorgeous coloration.

However, don’t be fooled by their beauty. These creatures are very smart and have some very interesting ways to take advantage of ants.

Basically, the adults mask the larvae to sound and smell like ant broods. This mimicry is so convincing that whole colonies of ants mistake the larvae as their own. 

Additionally, the scent is very similar to the scent of a queen ant, so the colony will feed ant grubs to the larvae.

Once the larvae develop, they eat the ants that are in the colony. 

Spiders

Spiders are common predators of ants. Some spin webs to catch insects, including ants. Then, as the ants struggle to get free, the vibrations catch the spider’s attention so they know to strike. Within a few seconds, the spider has wrapped the ant and consumed it.

Some species have a much simpler approach. Instead of building a web, they simply wait for ants to pass by and when they do, the spider will jump and grab them.  

The species of spiders that are known for eating ants are wolf spiders, lynx spiders, black widow spiders, and jumping spiders. Of course, given the chance, most spiders, including daddy longlegs (which are not technically spiders), will feast on ants when given the chance. 

Bombardier Beetles 

The bombardier beetle is a very unique insect with impressive defense skills. When this insect feels threatened, it ejects an acidic spray from its abdomen. This spray is so powerful that it makes a popping sound. 

Ants actually play a significant role in creating this acid. The beetles feast on a variety of insects, but ants are a major part of their diet. When the beetles consume the ants, they extract the formic acid from the bodies of the ants to create this spray. 

These beetles are known to attack colonies and nests to consume ants and the tiny insects can’t stand up against the strength of these beetles. 

Eucharitid Wasps 

The eucharitid wasp is another insect that is able to trick whole colonies of ants. Again, it’s the larvae that are the trickiest. The adults lay their eggs on branches and leaves. Once they hatch, the larvae drop to the ground and attach themselves to ants that are passing by. 

Since the wasp larvae have a scent that is similar to ants, most of them don’t even realize what is going on. The young wasps are carried to the colony and once there, they head to the brood chamber and start to chow down. 

The larvae feed on the brood until they become adults. At that time, they begin to munch on the adult ants. 

Larva Mimic Flies 

The larva mimic flies are interlopers that storm the ant colonies. In some cases, the flies only eat the food that is stored in the nest. However, in some cases, they also consume ants that get in their way. 

Males look like a typical fly but females don’t have wings. They have girthy abdomens and look a lot like maggots. Both the males and the females will enter the colonies, but males are the only ones that move from one nest to another. 

They do this so they can mate with several females. Ants that get in the way provide sustenance and fuel so the flies can continue mating. 

Phorid Flies 

Phorid flies have the same appearance as fruit flies. They are small with a high arch in their thorax. 

These flies are a major natural killer of ants and are sometimes purposefully used as pest control. They will kill and consume a variety of species of ants, but they especially enjoy fire ants. 

The way these flies consume ants is the stuff nightmares are made of! The adults hover over the colonies until they find a healthy worker ant. 

Then, they swoop down and inject a tube for laying eggs into the ant’s exoskeleton. The eggs are deposited, and the ant keeps moving along.

Once the larva has hatched, it destroys the ant’s brain and eats its head. Once this happens, the nymph is in control of the ant’s body and can force the ant to move into a safe space.  

Once in the “safe space”, the fly continues to eat the ant’s body and undergoes the process of metamorphosis. 

Ant Nest Beetles

Ant nest beetles are also known as paussines and are the product of major adaptation. They use a variety of techniques to trick the ants and therefore are able to live freely among them.  

They utilize chemical signals to allow them to blend in and their acoustic efforts jam the ant’s communication efforts. They use these techniques to invade ant colonies, feed on broods, and safely use the underground networks.

These insects are fairly adaptable, which allows them to switch up their strategies for various ant species. 

Ant Mugging Flies 

This insect is a bully, especially to ants. It hovers around and wants for the right time to snatch food from unwary worker ants. They don’t just snatch the food and leave – they force the ants to regurgitate anything they’ve already eaten. 

These flies grab the ant with their antennae and imitate a signal to get the ants to vomit. If the ant doesn’t vomit, they will become part of the meal. 

Other Types of Ants 

There are lots of different species of ants in the world and they don’t all get along. Many of them are rivals and are always going to war with each other. 

There is actually some extreme behavior among the colonies that are battling. They enslave their enemies, are aggressive towards one another, raid nests, and so much more. In fact, one of them may end up eating the other. 

Fire ants have been known to attack and consume other fire ants and army ants munch on the brood of nearby nests of other army ants. Raider ants will invade colonies, eat the brood, and forage for food. 

Some species, such as Solenopsis Daguerre ants, are parasitic in nature. The queen will invade other nests and take over instead of establishing her own colony. 

The ant kingdom is complex, and its members are quite aggressive. It’s normal to see them displaying cannibalistic behaviors. 

Other Animals that Consume Ants

As if ants didn’t already have enough to worry about with all of the insects that will eat them, other animals also feed on these bugs. 

Since they’re so much larger and need to eat a lot of ants to get anything from them, animals do the most damage to the colonies. 

Whether they just nibble on them for a tasty treat, or a major part of their diet is ants, there’s no shortage of animals that make ants part of their meal. 

We’ll explore some of the most common ones below: 

Birds 

There are several species of birds that enjoy munching on ants. The ones that feed on them regularly have long, thin beaks that can get into tight spots where ants like to hide. 

There are some birds that use ants for practical means, in ways such as a behavior known as “anting”. This is where the bird will rub dead ants on its body to ward off predators, fight disease, or address fungal issues. 

There are so many birds that make ants part of their diet, including: 

  • Hummingbirds
  • Antbirds
  • Downy woodpeckers 
  • Sparrows
  • Wild turkeys
  • Flickers 
  • Antpittas 
  • Grouses
  • Starlings

Lizards 

Lizards also have a fairly healthy appetite for ants. Most species prefer insects such as roaches and crickets, as they are much more substantial in nutrients. 

However, ants are a great alternative that is high in fat and protein. 

Horned lizards exclusively eat ants to maintain their health. They use their tongue to eat harvester ant colonies. 

This diet is said to make their blood toxic, which means that would-be predators find them less appealing. 

Some other species of lizards that enjoy consuming ants are: 

  • Anole
  • Chameleon
  • Gecko

Snakes 

Most snakes enjoy eating fish, insects, and small mammals. However, there are some smaller snake species that consume ants as a major part of their diet.

For example, the blind snake is only the size of a quarter when it’s coiled up. 

Therefore, it can’t eat larger food items. Most of these feed on termite larvae and ants. Additionally, they consume a large number of ant eggs and larvae as well. 

Blind snakes are found all over the world, but due to their small size, they are able to remain out of sight most of the time. Therefore, most people will never get the chance to see them. 

Snails  

Snails are seemingly innocent invertebrates that are found in bodies of water, gardens, etc. The preferred diet of snails varies. Some prefer fruits and plants, while others prefer a protein-based diet that includes ants. 

Nearly all of the carnivorous species will chow down on an ant that happens to stroll past them. 

Additionally, they’ll take advantage of other insects such as slugs and earthworms. 

Some of the species that most commonly consume ants are the Rosy Wolf Snail and any of the Powelliphanta family. 

Mammals 

There are several large mammals that enjoy consuming ants regularly. The most well-known one is the anteater. This is a medium-sized animal that is a natural predator of ants and survives on a diet that is almost exclusively made of ants. 

There are several species of anteater out there, but they all have one thing in common: a long snout and tongue. Their tongue is sticky, so it can instantly grab onto a lot of ants at once. When they are feeding, they stick their tongue into an ant mound and capture as many as they can. 

Another mammal that enjoys eating ants is the aardvark. They look a lot like anteaters but are more capable of foraging for food. They do have sticky tongues but rely more on their long claws to dig through ant mounds. 

Another one is the pangolin. This mammal is covered in armor-like scales and despite their intimidating appearance, they mostly eat termites and ants. Their shell is basically just a defense mechanism. Pangolins have a long snout and sharp claws, which help them get into the hard-to-reach nests for food. 

Finally, believe it or not, though most people believe bears to be predatory, there are some species that eat ants. These are known as insectivores. The most commonly known one is the sloth bear. They have long snouts for easy retrieval of ants just like the anteaters, aardvarks, and pangolins. 

Conclusion 

Now that you know more about insects and animals that are predators to ants, you can hopefully use it to your advantage in your efforts to eradicate the ant population around your property. 

While some of them are not going to apply in your situation, some might be worth trying to attract to eliminate ants from your yard and/or home.

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