Whether you’re at home, on the road, at a restaurant, or in your yard, you will see ants everywhere you go. Almost every country around the world, except Antarctica, has ants. There are more than 10,000 species of ants and each will have their own size and shape. There are so many ants, that for each human, there are 1,250,000 ants. These ants can have large dangerous pincers used to defend themselves, and some can fly to escape predators. Since there are ants in almost every part of the world, it is no surprise that they have lots of predators.
Just like humans, ants are social animals and will need to work together to survive. A group of ants that are made up of the same species and living together in one place is called a colony. Each ant in that colony will have a role: male ants in a colony will look for food while the female soldier ants will protect the colony. At the top of each ant colony’s ranking is a queen and is the only one in the colony that can lay eggs. Sometimes, a colony will have more than one queen that will lay eggs to make the colony grow bigger. Since a queen is the only one that can lay eggs in a colony, it is usually protected by other ants.
Despite being tiny and hard to spot by larger predators, there are animals and insects that have evolved to eat and hunt ants as they are very abundant. Animals and insects like antlions and anteaters use special techniques in capturing and hunting their tiny prey.
List of Main Ant Predators
Since there are 12,000 species of ants around the world, it is very common that ants will compete with other species and colonies for food. If a colony of ants is close to another colony from another species, then this will cause the native ants to drive out the ones that have just settled. If a group of ants will become aware that there are nearby colonies close to them, they will steal the eggs and kill the rest of the nearby colonies to make their colony even bigger.
Other species of ants will try to sneak into other colonies like the Solenopsis daguerrei. By replacing the queens of the colony with their own queen, they will use the colony to make their species even stronger. It’s no doubt that millions of ants have died fighting other ants for their own survival. When ants will fight each other, it’s usually to the death!
Lizards are one of the biggest predators of ants. Geckos have a big appetite for ants. The sharp senses of geckos can sniff and see almost any ant that’s close to it. If you’re not scared of reptiles or mind them running around your home, then having a gecko will help keep your house ant-free.
3. Ant-eating Birds
Almost every bird that you see love to have insects like ants as a snack. Birds are a good natural way of controlling the population of ants in your yard. Small and nimble birds like woodpeckers and nuthatches will actively hunt ants when they’re on the ground and when they’re flying. The sharp eyesight of these birds will not be a problem when they are hunting for tiny ants. If you don’t like having ants around your home, you can place water bowls and feeders which can attract birds to your garden.
A lot of people might not know this, but spiders love eating ants. These ant predators are known for eating a variety of different species of ants across the world. There are some species of spiders that have evolved to solely eat ants. Since most ants will climb on trees, walls, and other high places, they can get trapped on the webs of spiders. Spiders like the black widow, jumping spiders, and other species actively hunt ants. There are also spiders that hunt from the ground without having to make webs in high places.
When it is still in its larval form, antlions are the main predator of ants. This insect is known for surprising ants when it’s hunting them. Just like a lion, an antlion will jump out from its nest to attack any ant that will come close. Antlions are usually seen in deserts and other sandy areas around the world and will dig pits where they will hide and wait for their prey. For humans, it’s easy to see an antlion’s trap, but for most ants, they are not so lucky.
The biggest predators of ants are anteaters. As the name suggests, anteaters are known for eating thousands of ants in a minute with its long tongue. In a day, it can eat around 30,000 ants. Unlike other ant predators, anteaters don’t have any teeth since it relies on ants as its food source. Compared to other predators of ants that will usually destroy an entire colony, anteaters will leave alone colonies so that they can go back to eat more ants in the future.
The first thing that most people think about when they see a caterpillar is that it is herbivorous. Although there are some caterpillars that love to munch on leaves, there are also caterpillars that prey on young ants and recently-laid eggs. Some caterpillars will have hard carapaces that will stop most ants from biting down on their soft flesh. Since ants usually rely on their sense of smell to tell if something is an ant or another insect, it’s easy for most caterpillars to trick ants. Caterpillars like the Alcol Blue Caterpillar will pretend to be an ant in the colony so it can move freely and feast on young ants.
These insects are famous for eating all kinds of insects and can deliver a really painful sting to humans. This predator of ants start out as larva that will attach themselves to ants. Just like caterpillars that we talked about, these larvae will disguise themselves as ants with their scent. When larvae mature, these wasps will then feed on young ants and fly away to look for bigger prey. If wasps attack an ant colony, there’s a very little chance that there will be survivors.
While there are some ants that are good for the environment by helping clean up dead animals and insects, there are also some ants that are bad for the environment. Some ant colonies can grow out of control and will wipe out other species of insects that might help the environment such as bees and farmer ants. Just like ants, we have to do our part by keeping our environment clean and doing our part in our society so that everyone will be able to benefit from each other’s help.
I hope that this article on ant predators was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!