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Find Out The Eating Habits of Ants

Find Out The Eating Habits of Ants

Ants eat anything and everything that comes on their ways and they also carry them back to their colonies. It may vary from a grain of sugar to a dead insect or even a dead ant.

Ants that crawl inside your house look for scattered food particles, pet food, dead insects; in fact anything which is a source of protein or sugar. On this page, we will let you know everything about the biology of ants, their eating habits and how their eating habits help you to get rid of them from your house.

The Guidelines in this Page:

  • Biology of Ants
  • How do Ants Look?
  • Types of Ants:
  • Ants’ Eating Habit
  • Do Ants Kill to Eat?
  • Do Ants Feed on Grass? Do they Eat Leaves?
  • How Grasses are Harmed by Ants?
  • Why do Ants Eat Poisoned Baits?
  • Finally

Biology of Ants

Ant colonies are huge with thousands of different classes of ants (drones, worker ants, soldiers, infants, swarms, multiple queens) each dissimilar for the various species. The worker ants comprise the major population of a colony and all of them are female ants. Male ants are basically responsible for the reproduction activities in a colony.

How do Ants Look?

Ants are tiny insects with profound body structures. Each part has its own functionality. Belong to the order Hymenoptera, there are about more than 1000 species of ants in the world having common functional body constructions.

BODY PART STRUCTURE FUNCTION
Size (of an ant):Varies from 1 mm to 50 mm (according to the species).Smaller ants have an advantage to hide quickly.
Antennae:They look like threads and are well folded.They contain the smell and touch organs.
Abdomen (gasters):Swollen.Stores the main organs (including the reproductive organs, heart, and digestive organs).
Knobs at waist:Flattened or reduced in times.It helps in the flexibility of movements.
Overall body construction:Firm.Outside protection.
Waist:Elongated and narrow.Meandering and burrowing underground.
Eyes:Compound.Intense movement findings.
Mouth:Held in front.For chewing.
Limbs:6 in numbers.Locomotion.
Abdominal tip:Round and pimple shaped abdominal tip-heads.Stings.

Types of Ants

There are more than 1000 types of ants prevailing in the US alone. Ants are very adaptive to climatic conditions and different geographical locations which help them increase their population. Their main intention, as mentioned earlier is only to look for food (infesting your lunch boxes, picnic baskets or pet foods), build their colonies and reproduce more.

Rest assured your home and business premises are no exception to that. Some species can cause serious harm to your house by building colonies at the foundations of your household by weakening wooden structures (carpenter ants to be precise). Although they are tiny creatures they can cause you great harm.

Following is the list of common ants we come across in our day to day life and which we need to get rid of as soon as possible:

  • Acrobat Ants (Tapinoma sessile):

    Acrobat ants, also known as Saint Valentine ants (because of the heart-shaped abdomen) or as cocktail ants ( because of the way they manipulate the shape of their abdomens to enter through cracks and crevices) are arboreal (live in trees) insects and infest in wooden furniture of your home. The habits of these species of ants are quite similar to carpenter ants but unlike them, they live only on a sugar diet (honeydew, for example).

  • Carpenter Ants (Camponotus spp):

    Carpenter ants burrow through the wooden structures of your house and they are a great threat to the foundations of houses. They build nests inside the wooden structures and live on protein and sugar diet. So the common food sources for them vary from jams, pastries, honeydew to even dead insects.

  • Cornfield Ants (Lasius alienus):

    Don’t fall for the name and imagine that these ants are only found in cornfields. In fact, their nesting places include lawns, fields, rotten wood, moist barks of trees, underneath the large stones, etc. They collect the eggs of corn root aphids (small insects that suck the juices of plants) and when the aphids are hatched, they transfer them from grasses to growing corn. The omnivore ants feed on live and dead insects, seeds, nectar.

  • Little Black Ants (Monomorium minimum):

    They are the common house ants which you see crawling inside your home. They have a high adaptive capacity to survive in mostly any climatic conditions and that is why these ants are found in almost all parts of the US. They feed on anything and everything that may include meat, sweet, honeydew, dead insects, vegetables and whatnot.

  • Pavement Ants (Tetramorium caepitum):

    These are slow-moving ants that live outside your house in the sidewalks, pavement cracks, crevices of masonry but are the most common home-infesting ants. Especially during the winter, they move from their usual residing places and flock around houses for warmth and food. They live on sugar and protein diets that include sweets, meat, insects to name a few.

The above list contains the common ants we come across but as mentioned earlier there are more than 1000 species of ants in the world. The other lesser common ants include the larger yellow ants, Pharaoh ants, thief ants, false honey ants, odorous house ants, crazy ants and more.

Before going to the further topics about the food habits of ants, watch this video to understand how powerful ants can be when locating a food source and carrying it to the colony.

In this video, ants feed on a dead gecko (lizard). Most probably the ants here, prefer a protein diet:

Ants’ Eating Habit

There are numerous types of ants and they have varied food habits. But the basic habit encircles around the 2 kinds of diets, the sugar diet (from sugar-rich nourishments), and the protein diet (from protein-rich nourishments). Both the nourishments have easy sources from your household.

Sweet products like jellies, cakes, candies, honey are a good source of sugar nourishments whereas meat, peanut butter, pet food and other live and dead insects are a good source of protein nourishments. Honeydew is an enriched sugar secretion by aphids and some scaled insects that live on plant sap.

The sticky liquid drips down from the stems and barks of the trees and is collected near the ground. Aphids living in close association with ants develop a symbiotic relationship with them exchanging honeydew for protection from more powerful predators.

If you are suffering from ant invasion in your house and you are not sure about their diet preferences, apply both protein baits and sugar baits to be on a safer side. These baits will let you know about the food habits of the ants that are infesting your home.

Just place a spoon of peanut butter (protein bait) and a spoon of jelly (sugar bait) in two containers and watch. Soon you will realize the diet preferences and decide on your bait traps. A gel-bait is preferred for sugar ants and a granular-bait for protein ants.

Do Ants Kill to Eat?

We have mentioned earlier that ants are pretty adaptive to situations and they can adjust themselves with multiple diverse environments. Mostly, ants feed on sugars and proteins and some protein ants feed on dead insects.

But there are some species of ants like the army ants (Eciton burchellii) that hunt, kill and operate like predators to their prey which are spiders, worms and tiny vertebrates (small lizards). Leafcutter ants (Atta cephalotes) feed on fungi.

Do Ants Feed on Grass? Do they Eat Leaves?

Ants don’t eat grass, in fact, they feed on the seeds and carry them back to nests.
Ants don’t eat leaves either. The leafcutter ants carry certain grass leaves along with leaves of rose and citrus plants, bramble shrubs and, leaves of oak trees to nurture fungus from them.

How Grasses are Harmed by Ants?

When you see pale patches of grass in your garden, rest assure your garden has ants hiding in it. The leafcutter ants are a threat to your vegetation too as they cut the leaves of grass and carry them to their colonies which produces an idyllic ambiance for typical fungi to grow which they eat. Ant molds are also harmful to your garden. Rapid movements of ants burrowing soils can disturb the roots of grasses and they dry up.

Why do Ants Eat Poisoned Baits?

Poisonous gel baits are the commonest sweet ant baits that are used to kill ants and eliminate ant colonies. The majority of ants are attracted to the sugary content of the baits and they carry them to the nests which in due course kill a huge ant population including the workers, soldiers and the queen. Ant baits work slowly and are not instant ant-killers. It gives the insects time to carry the poison to their nests.

See this video to know how ant baits are capable of killing a whole ant population:

Finally

Although it is said that ants eat anything and everything, ants do not really feed on grass, moist wood or even different parts of plants and trees. They make tunnels through them by harming the foundations but by doing so they actually search for either sugar-based foods or protein-based foods.

If you are suffering from severe ant invasion in your house, ignore using baits in the first place. Instead, put a sweet product (gellies, candies, etc.) and a protein product (peanut butter, leftover meat particles, etc.) in 2 different containers near the suspected ant infiltrated spots.

Once you see ants flocking near them consult a professional pest control company and ask for an expert pest exterminator to help you with your problem. You can get free quotes if you want once you go through our guide to remove ants from your premises.

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