16 Ant predators: What Eats Ants?

Anteaters aren’t the only ones who enjoy eating ants for dinner.

Ants are packed with protein and can nourish animals as big as bears.

In this article, we’ll go over the different species that specialize in eating ants.

Let’s dive in!

1. Ants

Ants are known to resort to cannibalism when there is nothing else to eat.

They would start with naturally dead ants but will eat live ants to survive.

Ants will also attack other ant colonies to maintain a sustainable colony size.

They don’t always eat one another, but they do kill one another often.

2. Blue Butterfly

Blue butterfly caterpillars (liphyra caterpillars) have evolved to be the perfect trojan horse.

They mimic the sound and smell of red ant’s larvae to fool ants into taking them into their nest.

Once inside, the caterpillars feast on ant larvae. They also take advantage of the colony’s care and protection.

To prevent being detected, the caterpillars will mimic the queen ant’s sound.

In other words, these butterflies found a way to make the ants do the hard work for them as “new parents.”

All of this works because of one key thing: red ants are blind.

As such, caterpillars can sucker them into believing they belong to the colony with smell and sounds.

3. Oogpister Beetle

Oogpister beetles feed on ants for nourishment.

They also extract formic acid from ants and use it to defend themselves from predators.

When threatened, the Oogpister beetle squirts a bit of the formic acid into the attackers’ eyes.

Once sprayed, the predators remember to stay away from them.

The acid works so well that some lizards imitate the distinctive black and white markings of the Bombardier beetle to keep predators away.

4. Phorid Flies

Female Phoridae flies inject their eggs into living ants bodies.

Once the egg develops into a larva, it travels into the ant’s brain and feeds on it.

The ants head will eventually fall off, and an adult Phorid fly emerges from it.

Phorid flies are used in the US to control red imported fire ants.

Since these ants came from South America, they don’t have a natural predator in the US.

As a result, their colonies were able to grow rapidly and cost billions of dollars of damage per year.

To combat this, Phorid flies that specifically attack red ants are also imported from South America.

While these flies won’t eliminate entire ant colonies, they are effective at reducing their numbers.

5. Eucharitid Wasps

Eucharitid female wasps lay their eggs on plants near the ants’ nests.

The eggs will later develop into larvas, which attach themselves to the ants to be carried into the nest.

Once inside, the parasitoid larva feeds on the ant’s young.

Eucharitid larvas acquire the ant’s odor, which prevents ants from recognizing their parasitic behavior.

The camouflage is so effective that the ants would care for the larva even as they develop into an adult wasp.

Eucharistic wasps use the ant’s protection and care right before the scent wears off.

Once ready, the wasp will emerge from the ant’s nest fully developed.

6. Ant Nest Beetle

Ant-nest beetles mimic the sounds and smell to penetrate the ant’s colony.

First, they follow the trails of ant workers and interact with them.

Once inside, they mimic the sounds made by the queen ant.

This allows them to prey on the colony’s members without alarming the ants.

Glandular secretions on their antennae and body allow them to interact with ant workers.

7. Doodlebug (Ant Lion)

The doodlebugs, also known as antlions, traps ants by creating circular pits at an angle that makes it impossible for ants to climb up.

The bugs then hide underneath the bottom of these pits and wait for the ants to pass by.

Once an ant stumbles into the ditch, the antlion liquefies the ants insides with venom and consumes it.

The doodlebug got its name from crafting circular pits into the sand as if doodling.

The finished pit is around one to two inches wide and deep.

8. Spiders

Not all spiders eat ants.

Some species, such as black widows and lynx spiders, prefer to eat them.

Other spiders, such as the jumping spider, also eat ants but only when available.

While Black widows wait on ants to stumble on their silken webs, Lynx and Jumping Spiders are hunters.

Instead of spinning webs, Jumping Spiders pounce on victims using a silk tether.

Jumping Spiders carefully stalk on their prey from above.

Once ready, they use a silk tether to jump on their meal. If they miss, they climb back up and try again.

9. Rove Beetles

Most ants are blind, and communication through a complex system of sounds and smell.

Rove beetles have evolved to take advantage of this.

Ancestral rove beetles used to attack ant colonies, feed on the ants, and escape.

But these beetles have evolved to find a better way.

Today, Rove beetles sneak into ant colonies by mimicking their odor.

Once inside the ants’ nest, they feed on the colonies young, undetected.

They have also evolved to copy the ants’ shape making the Beatles feel like ants too.

What’s most remarkable is that, over millions of years, the Rove beetles have independently gone through the same transformation between 12 and 15 times.

They went from an independently roaming beetle to a beetle that mimics and lives with ants.

10. Woodpecker

Woodpeckers eat insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, spiders, and flies. They also enjoy eating ants.

Some woodpeckers, such as Flickers and Pileated woodpeckers, feed primarily on ants.

Carpenter ants make up most of Pileated woodpeckers’ diet.

11. Lizards

Some lizards, such as the thorny devil lizard and horned lizards, specialize in eating ants.

But, since ants aren’t very nutritious, the devil’s lizard will eat hundreds sometimes thousands per meal.

The thorny devil lizard might appear a bit scary with its spikes, but they are harmless to humans and eat ants.

Similar to the thorny devil, horned lizards eat ants. They also look very much alike.

That said, these two lizards are unique from each other.

Horned lizards also prey on other invertebrates such as grasshoppers, beetles, worms, crickets, and flies.

12. Anteaters

As their name suggests, Anteaters consume ants for nourishment.

But they also target the ants’ ancient rivals–termites.

To eat ants and termites, Anteaters will use their claws to slash open mounds or rotting wood.

They then use their tongue and snouts to scoop up the ants and termites inside.

Anteaters don’t have teeth. They swallow the ants and termites whole along with debris, which helps them digest the insects.

They can scoop up as many as 35,000 ants and termites each day.

In addition to ants and termites, Anteaters also eat soft fruits and birds’ eggs.

13. Bears

Ants are not a bears favorite meal, but they will eat them if the food starts to become scarce.

While it may seem like ants are too small to keep bears nourished, they are packed with protein and do a good job of keeping the bears nourished.

14. Slender Blind Snakes

Slender blind snakes, also known as thread snakes, eat a variety of insects.

But most species prefer ants and termites.

The snakes track down ants by following the chemical trails leave when they forage for food.

Once the snake finds the ants’ nest, they feed on their eggs and larvae.

To protect itself from ants, the snake rolls into a ball and covers its body with a natural ant repellant. This repellent is made of the snakes’ own slime and feces.

15. Chickens

Chickens love ants.

They are packed with protein, which chickens need for optimal health.

As such, ants are usually the first insects that chickens will eat through free-roaming.

Chickens are great biocontrol for ants. 

If you have an anthill in your yard you want to get rid of, then chickens may be the solution you are looking for.

Keep in mind, however, that not all chickens love ants. 

Some chickens will completely ignore them, while others will ravage through their meal. 

There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with these chickens. Their appetite for ants seems to be just a matter of preference.

16. Microsporidia

Microsporidia is a pathogen that infects different ant species.

Two of the most popular ant species infected by Microsporidia are Fire Ants and Crazy Rasberry Ants.

This pathogen infects the host until it has infected the majority of their cells.

This pathogen is slow acting in adults, which ensures that it spreads within the colony.

On the other hand, it kills larvae much faster.

The use of this pathogen as a biological control method is in the early stages and still being studied.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Insects Eat Ants?

Insects such as caterpillars, beetles and flies eat ants.

Some will eat ants exclusively, while others will have a more varied diet.

Ants will also engage in cannibalism when there’s no other food available. While they will prefer to eat dead ants, they will resort to attacking live ants if necessary.

What Spiders Eat Ants?

Not all spiders eat ants. Some species, such as black widows and lynx spiders, prefer to eat them.

Other spiders, such as the jumping spider, also eat ants but only when available.

What chickens eat ants?

Not all chickens love ants.

Some chickens will completely ignore them, while others will ravage through their meal.

There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with these chickens. Their appetite for ants seems to be just a matter of preference.

Do Worms Eat Ant?

Earthworms will eat a dead ant but will not eat live ones.

You’ll often see worms and ants living in the same area. That’s because both species are looking for food on the ground.

Both worms and ants are interested in feeding on fruit and vegetable scraps.

While ants and worms are competing for the same food source, the two do not often prey on each other.

Some ants, such as red fire ants and carpenter ants, will attack live ants.

But most often, the two live harmoniously. They will, however, feed on the dead bodies of one another.

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