What Eats Ants?
Ants can be annoying pests, but they are also interesting creatures. There are at least 12,000 species of ants on every continent except Antarctica. Some of them have been around for over 100 million years.
Ants have a highly developed social system with three different castes: queens, males, and workers. The queen is the only ant that can lay eggs. Males are responsible for impregnating the queen, and they die soon after mating. Workers are sterile females that take care of the colony. They build the nest, gather food, and protect the colony.
The reproduction process for ants can be very fast, depending on the ants’ species and weather conditions. A healthy colony can grow from tens or hundreds of thousands in just 6 to 12 months. With this behavior, ants can grow their population quickly if they have no predator who eats them. So what are the common predators of ants? This blog post will explore what animals like to eat ants and how they go about it.
What Eats Ants?
Ants are one of the most important insects in our ecosystem. They help with decomposition by feeding on organic material like plants and animals. They also help to aerate the soil and recycle nutrients. Ants also serve as a valuable food source for many species on the food web.
Some of the predators of ants include some species of mammals, reptiles, birds, arthropods, and even other ant species.
Mammals That Eat Ants
As their name implies; these mammals feed primarily on ants. They have long snouts and tongues extending up to 2 feet long! They use their long claws to rip open ant hills and termite mounds, then use their tongue to feed on ants inside. They can also create a vacuum in their throat to suck up ants.
Pangolin is a unique creature covered in tough, overlapping scales to protect its body. In addition, they have an extraordinarily long sticky tongue which they use for capturing termites and ants. When threatened, this mammal will curl up into a ball, using its scales as armor against predators.
Aardvarks are pig-size, tough mammals that live throughout Africa. They are closely related to elephants and manatees; all belong to a group of primitive ungulates called uranotherians. They use their stomach muscles to chew and digest whole ants and termites and can eat as many as 50,000 ants and termites in one eating.
Reptiles That Eat Ants
Horned Lizards (Horny Toads)
Horny Toads are native to the United States and parts of Central America. They have very recognizable scales that form ridges of horns on their body. They feed mostly on venomous species of ants, like harvester ants. Why they prefer these venomous ants is not clear, according to some biologists. It is just because they have no other options in their arid habitat. Unlike other ant predators, they don’t attack ants. Instead, they patiently await ants and strike when an ant comes close enough. They have a very long tongue which helps them to lick up ants.
Turtles eat everything they can hunt in the wild, including ants. Since ants are amongst the tiniest insects, they have to eat a load of ants to sustain their need and fill their appetite. Turtles use their thick skin to withstand ants’ bites.
Birds That Eats Ants
Woodpeckers, as a group, are known for eating ants. While many vertebrate species avoid these stinging or noxious bugs because they can harm their health, a pileated Woodpecker’s diet may be up as much as 50% ant. They hunt ants, eggs, and larvae by digging their beaks into the ground to create a hole. Once the hole is big enough, they will stick their long tongues inside to feast on ants.
Wild pigeons and domesticated pigeons differ in what they eat. Domesticated pigeons feed on seeds, fruits, vegetables, or anything their owners give them. While, wild pigeons have more options, and one of them is ants. In the wild, they will hunt ants by using their beaks to kill ants. Then they will use their tongue to eat it.
Starlings are omnivores. This means that they’ll eat anything, and this includes ants! You can mostly find them feeding in large groups, taking over gardens for insects like ants.
Arthropods That Eat Ants
Arthropods are a diverse group of animals that includes insects, crustaceans, and arachnids. Many are predators, and some species of ants are their main food source.
Spiders are eight-legged arthropods with 40,000 different species living all over the world. Most feed on ants that they can locate anywhere.
Some species of spiders, like jumping spiders, lynx spiders, and black widow spiders, weave webs to trap ants. When ants are stuck in their web, spiders will then pounce on them and inject venom to kill them. After that, they will wrap them up in silk and eat them.
Other species of spiders will just wait for the ants and jump quickly to snatch them with their powerful fangs.
Assassin bugs are predatory insects that benefit humans as they help control pests like ants. They use a long mouthpiece to stab their prey and inject venom. This will then digest the victim’s insides so the assassin bug can suck it up.
Acanthaspis petax is one of the species of assassin bugs that evolve to prey on ants. They use the dead ants to cover their body, providing camouflage so they can easily feed freely and invade the ants’ colony.
Ants are an essential food source for many beetle species; Bombardier Beetle is one of them. However, unlike other insects that eat ants, they storm ants colonies and gobble them.
Some species of Bombardier Beetle can emit a toxic spray as self-defense against ants when they feel threatened. This will kill the ants instantly.
Ants can be a predator or prey, depending on the species. Many species of ants are known to be cannibals and will eat their kind. One example is the raider ants. The raiders are a type of ant that live by feeding off other colonies. They go through their foraging phase, which means they steal food, larvae, and eggs from the colonies.