You’ve probably heard of anteaters, but these furry mammals aren’t the only creatures that include ants as a staple food in their diet. In fact, there are many different animals and invertebrates that prey on these hardworking insects. So, what animals eat ants? What happens when people eat them? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more.
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What Animals Eat Ants?
There are many different animals that eat ants. Many of these ant predators are mammals, but some are birds, reptiles, amphibians, and even spiders.
Let’s take a closer look at some specific types of animals most known for eating ants.
These furry creatures have a diet that consists largely of ants, hence the name “anteater.” Some anteaters also eat large quantities of termites.
Anteaters don’t have teeth, so they swallow the ants and termites whole. They have long tongues that they use to stick down ant tunnels and termite mounds; the tongues are sticky enough to capture many of the insects at once.
An unrelated group of animals called spiny anteaters also enjoy chowing down on ants and termites. These egg-laying mammals are native to Australia and New Guinea.
Aardvarks look somewhat similar to anteaters, though they aren’t as hairy and have more pig-like snouts. They are sometimes referred to as “the anteaters of Africa.”
Aardvarks, like anteaters, mostly eat ants and termites. Oddly enough, they will also eat a type of cucumber referred to as the aardvark cucumber.
Orangutans eat a variety of foods, including ants. They sometimes insert small sticks into ant nests in an effort to extract some of the ants, as you can see in the following video.
Sloth bears are found in India and are the primary bear species known for eating ants. These lanky-looking bears are omnivores, but the majority of their diet is made up of insects such as ants and termites.
These unique-looking armored creatures are found primarily in Africa and Asia, and insects make up the majority of their diet. Different pangolins appear to prefer some species of ants over others; each individual tends to eat just one or two species of ant exclusively.
There are many different species of bird that eat ants.
There is an entire group of birds known as antbirds; this group includes many individual species and can be found throughout tropical parts of the New World continents. All of these birds eat ants and other insects, and some of them will even follow the movement of army ant colonies to feed on them repeatedly.
Other types of birds that eat ants are antpittas, ant thrushes, and common backyard birds such as blue jays and wrens.
Geckos are insectivores, and ants are one of their favorite foods. House geckos in particular are great to have around if you live in a warm, dry climate and your house is infested with ants; the little lizard-like creatures aren’t scared of humans and will soon rid your house of the pesky insect invaders.
Also known as horny toads, these spiky reptiles are found throughout the southwest United States and northern parts of Mexico. There are various species of horned lizards, and almost all of them love to eat ants.
In fact, some species, such as the Texas horned lizard, eat more ants than any other insect. This species, in particular, has a diet composed of 70 percent ants; the other 30 percent is made up of termites.
There are many species of poison-dart frogs, and they are found primarily in tropical regions throughout the world. Some eat many different kinds of insects, while others seem to prefer a more limited diet of ants and termites.
Interestingly, those that mostly eat ants and termites tend to be more poisonous than those with a more diverse diet.
Many different types of toads also enjoy eating ants. Most of these species belong to the same order and are known collectively as narrow-mouthed toads.
Because their mouths are small in comparison with the rest of their bodies, these toads primarily eat insects and invertebrates. Ants make up a large portion of their diet.
What Insects Eat Ants?
Of course, there are also plenty of insects that prey on ants as well. Some of these include:
Many different kinds of spiders eat ants. Some of the more common ant-eating arachnids include jumping spiders, black widows, and wolf spiders.
This insect is known for subsisting almost entirely on ants. Both adult antlions and their larvae eat ants, but the larvae are more well-known for the cunning traps they build to catch their next meal.
Antlion larvae, known as doodlebugs, dig funnel-shaped holes in the dirt for ants to fall into. The doodlebugs are waiting right below the surface of the funnel, and when an ant falls in, they quickly gobble it up.
Check out this video to see an antlion larva at work:
Certain types of flies prey on ants.
Phorid flies lay eggs inside ants; the eggs then hatch, and the larvae eat the ants from the inside out, starting with the head and brain.
Larva mimic flies invade ant colonies to eat the food stored inside and, often, any ants that try to fight back.
Ant-mugging flies steal food from unsuspecting worker ants, then force them to throw up food they already ate. Sometimes, rather than forcing the ant to throw up, the fly will simply eat it.
Some beetles eat ants as well. Ant nest beetles infiltrate colonies and disguise their presence so they can devour the colony from within, while bombardier beetles unleash all-out attacks on colonies and eat many ants at a time.
The larvae of some butterflies also eat ants. They sometimes use smells and behavior to trick ants into taking them into their colony, then they will begin eating the ant larvae and sometimes even the adult ants.
Some species of ant will prey on other types of ants. Raider ants invade colonies of other species and live entirely on these ants; army ants frequently do the same; and fire ants frequently cannibalize members of their own species.
What Happens if People Eat Ants?
Most people in the U.S. try to avoid eating insects, so if you accidentally eat an ant, you may wonder if it will make you sick.
The good news is, eating ants won’t harm you. In fact, people in many other cultures routinely eat ants and other insects.
In Mexico, for example, ants are frequently dipped in chocolate and eaten like candy. They may also be eaten roasted, dehydrated, and deep-fried, eaten on their own, or added to recipes.
Ants have many predators in the wild, and even some humans enjoy eating them as snacks and delicacies. They are most commonly eaten by mammals such as anteaters, reptiles like the horned lizard, and insects such as spiders and antlions. If you’re wondering what ants eat and drink, you can read about it here.