Picture of ants - what do they eat?

What Do Ants Eat? The Answer May Surprise You

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Ants may be tiny insects, but they live in massive colonies. Ant colonies may range from a few dozen to millions of organized individuals. Ants can invade residential homes foraging for anything they can take back to their colonies.

Have you spotted ants in your home and wondered, “What do ants eat?” Learn about ants diet, how they find food, and more.

How Do Ants Find Food?

Most ants are omnivores, eating almost everything they forage in the wild. More commonly, it seems an ants food is anything and everything in your kitchen.

With over 13,800 classified species, it’s hard to come up with a list of all the food ants eat. These opportunistic insects eat what’s available in the environment to survive.

That said, there are certain kinds of food that ants prefer to eat.

What Do Ants Eat Indoors?

If you’re an ant keeper, you may want to know what to feed an ant.

Below are foods that ants love.

  • Sugary foods, including products containing sugar
  • Salt
  • Fats
  • Human food
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Potted plants
  • Seeds
  • Fruits
  • Small insects hiding in your home

What Do Ants Eat in the Wild?

Ants in the wild will feed on:

  • Fungus
  • Honeydew from aphids
  • Nectar
  • Seeds
  • Leaves
  • Fruits
  • Small vertebrates such as reptiles, amphibians, and birds
  • Other insects
  • Spiders
  • Worms

What Do Ants Drink?

Ants, like other insects, need water to survive. They drink water and take more to their colonies to build nests.

Ants rely on tiny water droplets and pools as their sources of water. Others get water from saps in plants and flowers.

When there’s a drought, ants invade residential homes to look for water in kitchen or bathroom sinks.

How Does an Ant Find Food?

Ants organize themselves into specialized groups. When it comes to finding food, worker ants go foraging for foodstuffs. They leave behind pheromones or a chemical trail that other ants follow back to their nest.

They use their strong mandibles (jaws) for hunting, digging, cutting, and holding food. Like other animals, ants chew their food and salivate it to make it easy to consume.

Ants have two stomachs, mesosoma and rostrum. Ants store some food in the mesosoma and vomit it upon returning to their nests. Their second stomach, the rostrum, holds liquid food that supplies nutrients.

Ants have antennae for smelling, touching, and feeling any food items near them. Antennae also help ants communicate with each other.

How Much Does Ant Eat?

Ants eat almost 30% of their total body weight daily. If you keep ants, feed them once every six hours. An ant colony will consume about 4.5 pounds (72 ounces) of food daily.

What Eats Ants?

Almost every animal that feeds on insects can eat ants. Ant keepers can provide ants to various reptiles because ants are good sources of proteins.

Below is a list of predators that eat ants:

  • Insects like flies, beetles, antlions, assassin bugs, and caterpillars
  • Snails
  • Snakes
  • Birds like starlings, sparrows, and grouse
  • Spiders
  • Fish
  • Narrow-mouthed toads
  • Lizards
  • House gecko
  • Mammals such as coyotes, giant anteaters, pangolins, bears, aardvarks, and humans
Tips from Our Vets

Though it may seem weird to try to identify different animals’ feces, there are many cases where you may need to do exactly that.

Many home and property owners come across animal feces and are concerned about what animals may be lurking. Being able to identify the feces that wildlife and rodents leave behind will not only let you know what animals are in the area, but also can give clues as to how many of them are present.

At first, it can be distressing to find foreign looking animal feces in your home or on your property. Fears of aggressive or rabid animals, as well as the diseases they may carry are often the first worries.

Protecting your family and pets is of utmost importance. However, taking the time to correctly identify the feces is essential in assessing the threat or risk from the animals.

This research will also enable a home or property owner to devise an effective strategy for keeping any pest animals out of their homes, barns, or other areas where they are not welcome.

Scat Identification Techniques

  1. The first thing to do if you come across scat, or feces from animals, is to observe the location of the droppings. Notice where the feces are in relation to buildings, other structures, other animals, water, roads, and vegetation. Different animals will place their droppings in particular locations and this can be the first clue to identifying them.
  2. Next, observe the placement of the scat. Are the feces hidden or buried? Are they randomly dropped all over an area with seemingly little regard for placement, or are they tucked away in corners or neat piles? These factors can greatly narrow down the list of possible culprits.
  3. Note the size of the scat. If you are investigating feces found in your home or on your property, it is a good idea to obtain a ruler or tape measure that you can use to measure. Some animals’ feces may look identical to others from the same family, and size may be the only distinguishing feature. *REMEMEBR: animal feces can carry both diseases and parasites so they should never be handled without gloves.*
  4. What is the shape of the found fecal matter? Some shape characteristics to look for include if the feces are round, tapered at the ends, completely tubular, round pellets, twisted, or moist mounds.
  5. An additional clue to the species of animal leaving the scat is what is included in the feces. Berries, hair, seeds, and plant parts should all be looked for in the droppings. This information can be used to identify the animal that left it.
  6. Lastly, look around the area where you first identified the scat. In cases of feces from animals that have similar appearing feces to another species, it can be helpful to search for nearby footprints or tracks left by the animals. This can be used to confirm species.

If you’re looking for more information on animal diets, we created a guide to human foods dogs can and can’t eat, and you can also check out our resources on the diets of various animals below:

Pet News Daily Staff
Pet News Daily writers are experts in pet care, health and behavior. We are members of Society for Professional Journalists and practice ethical journalism.