Ants live almost everywhere and in almost every kind of climate except in Antarctica and the high arctic. Some ants are harmless but they can also be annoying to deal with especially for humans.
Based on studies, the ant has significantly high fat and protein content that makes this small insect an excellent food source to hundreds of species. Lastly, studies said that an animal can survive on a diet that is made exclusively of ants.
This article enumerates some of these animals that eat ants on a regular basis.
Which animals eat the most ants?
As its name suggests, anteaters feed almost entirely on ants. These medium-sized mammals are living exclusively in the continent of South and Central America. They are characterized by having a long snout and a long sticky tongue.
They eat ants regularly as part of their diet. They stick their tongues into the anthill to get a mouthful of ants.
Expert Tip: Anteaters swallow ants whole because they don’t have teeth to chew them.
Mammals that eat ants
There are species of mammals that can be considered voracious ant predators. Enlisted below are some mammals that eat ants as a supplement to their diet.
Pangolins are best known for having hard-scale covering that serves as their defense mechanism against their natural predators. They are commonly found in parts of Southern Asia and Africa. Just like anteaters, the diet of pangolins consists mostly of ants and termites.
Their long snout and sharp claws help them collect the ants. Moreover, pangolins are also skillful climbers that use their claws and tails to strip bark from trees to search for ants.
If Africa has its own version of anteater, it is the aardvark. They are distantly related to anteaters. Moreover, both have a similar body shape and sticky tongue. Interestingly, the aardvarks are more closely related to elephants. Just like anteaters, they also dig into anthills and termites’ nest using their sticky tongue and claws.
Expert Tip: Aardvark’s diet is almost exclusively made up of termites, ants, and cucumbers. Cucumber is the only fruit that aardvarks consume.
3. Sloth Bears
Unlike other animals that have diets exclusively made up of ants and termites, sloth bear does not survive merely on ants. They also consume fruits, carrion, and even small mammals as supplements to their diets.
Sloth bears are the most insectivorous species of bear and are native to Nepal and India. They are also considered expert ant hunters that use their large claws to dig up anthills.
Orangutans are native species that live in the Southeast Asian rain forests. Though orangutans’ diet is commonly made up of fruits, every once in a while, they eat various insects including ants and termites. There were also recordings that caught orangutans using a tool like small sticks to extract and pick up ants and termites from their colonies.
Birds that eat ants
Aside from mammals, various bird species also depend on an ant-based diet. Some birds even have a behavior known as “anting” where they rub dead ants on their body. This serves as a deterrent to their predators and fights diseases and fungus with the help of the plant substances that have been taken by the ants.
Some birds that feed on ants are:
There are more than 220 recorded bird species that are native in the tropical rain forests of Central and South America. One of them is the antbirds that almost exclusively feed on ants and other small insects.
Expert Tip: Antbirds hop and hunt through the branches of trees to search for all types of insects. They also use their sharp and long beaks to pick insects off of branches and leaves.
This genus of woodpeckers is native from North to South America. Unlike other woodpeckers, flickers are known to hunt frequently on the ground than in trees. Their diet consists mainly of insects especially ants and beetles that they gather from the ground.
The same way how other woodpeckers drill into wood, the flickers hammer the soil and gather ants underground. This is where the nutritious larvae of ants are can be found.
Unlike other species that are only native to other places, sparrows are very common to many parts of the world even in your own backyard. They will feed mostly on grains but they also feed on different insects including ants. In fact, sparrows are considered an excellent insect control in any yard.
Reptiles that eat ants
There are many reptile species that are considered insectivores. However, there are only a few species of reptiles that feed mainly on ants and termites. Some of them are listed below:
8. Blind Snakes
Blind snakes are rare to find. They are usually found underground and feed almost exclusively on ant and termite larvae. Using their scent glands, they track down ant nests and eat as many eggs as they can.
Expert Tip: Despite being one of the smallest vertebrates, blind snakes can eat a massive amount of ant eggs and larvae.
9. Narrow–Mouthed Toads
The Narrow – mouthed toads are commonly found in Asia, North America, and Africa. As the name suggests, these toads have very narrow mouths. Their mouths are narrow because they specialize in feeding on ants and termites. With their forward-facing eyes, they can easily aim and catch a mouthful of ants with ease.
10. Horned Lizards
These lizards are commonly found in the United States and some parts of Central America. They have unique scales on their sides, back, and head that forms horn ridges. They feed exclusively on ants. Using their sticky tongues, they slowly pick up ants from ant colonies.
Fascinatingly, horned lizards squirt blood out of their eyes to defend themselves from predators. Their blood contains foul-smelling toxins that they accumulate from eating harvester ants.
11. House Gecko
House Geckos feed on insects including ants. They are a common reptile found in our homes. This makes them an excellent natural pest control inside our houses.
Insects that eat ants
Because of the abundance of ants in the ecosystem, it is no surprise that many insects feed on them. Some of the most voracious ant predators are:
Spiders such as jumping spiders and wolf spiders often eat ants. It is also believed that most spiders will feed on ants. In fact, it is said that anywhere there are ants there is likely a spider species that feed on such ants.
As the name antlion suggests, this insect feeds on ants. Antlion larvae create pits in loose soil and wait for ants to fall in. The Antlion larvae undergo metamorphosis and turn into a large adult that almost looks like a dragonfly.
Expert Tip: Even in the adult stage, antlion still eats ants and other small insects. However, some antlions have adapted to feed on plant nectars.
What is a natural predator of ants?
If you will ask, what is the most natural predator of ants? Well, it is actually other ants. Army ants are considered excellent ant predators have given that they are slightly larger in size and can easily kill other ant species.
Some other species of ants like the Raider ants live entirely by raiding other ant colonies. They raid ant colonies to steal the ant’s eggs, larvae, and food. Meanwhile, the Fire ants are also a predator of other ants that are territorial and aggressive. Basically, ants are what eat ants the most.
Ants may be one of the smallest creatures in the ecosystem. Despite this, it can still be seen that ants contribute equally to the balance of the food chain. While ants seem to be annoying and harmful sometimes, it is undeniable that it serves benefits to some mammals, reptiles, insects, and birds as they have ants as a primary source of their diet.
Instead of eliminating ants to get rid of it, let its natural predator benefit from it instead. This might be one natural way to help us deal with the peskiness of ants.