You must have seen ants and earthworms in the yard if you are a passionate gardener. Worm composting raises gardeners’ concerns about predatory ants because they don’t want to lose the efficiency of naturally decomposing worms.
Can Ants and Worms Live Together? Ants and worms can live together in a single spot because they naturally coexist in trash bins while composting food scraps and getting nutrition. However, a few ant species, like carpenter ants, fire ants, and big-headed or weaver ants are deadly and eat living or dead worms by stinging their dry bodies.
You can keep ants away from worm farms by making exterior surfaces sticky, spreading diatomaceous earth, and raising them from the ground.
It is better to know ants’ behavior toward worms before introducing them to a compost bin because they can destroy the whole setup by killing your ploughman.
How can ants and worms live together?
Ants and worms are living creatures existing together in nature because these insects get attracted to compost bins to get their food.
They are less attractive to insects than compost food, mainly where they live. Commonly, they can live peacefully in the same compost bin without harming each other.
Their bodies are covered with a mucous-like substance that makes them undesirable for the insects navigating their periphery. They can attract ants only when not producing any secretion.
Food scraps are broken into simpler materials and converted into compost when these earthworms are manually added to the filled bin.
Moreover, this compost material is used as a fertilizer due to its high nutritional value and grabs the attention of the nearby crawling ants to come and get their food.
Both of them remain busy with their activities because worms break the food, and these insects prefer to consume the broken compounds due to their simpler digestive system.
In addition, both are good decomposers, break down complex structures of dead bodies of animals and plant organic material, and recycle nutrients.
Most commonly, they collaborate in the environment because their function is almost similar and crucial for the environment’s sustainability.
They are good burrowers and improve aeration in soil, resulting in improved plant growth. So, they are naturally coexisting, ultimately benefiting plants and animals.
Most ant species are known to be their friends until they live, but all of them get food from their dead bodies when there is no mucous to protect them.
Why do ants eat worms?
Worm bodies provide essential nutrients required by other living species to survive. As a result, their bodies are packed with high amounts of protein, containing almost 65% to 68%.
In addition, adult earthworms contain around 10% to 20% carbohydrates and essential vitamins and minerals that can help them grow well.
It is found that their bodies contain a higher content of amino acids, like methionine and lysine, compared to those present in fish. In addition, they are rich in iron, manganese, copper, and zinc.
Moreover, ants get attracted to the ideal level of moisture and stinking smell of compost, but they can pose a risk to their eggs if there is nothing nutritious in the bin.
Their eggs are equally nutritious and are a good source of proteins that can help fulfill insects’ energy requirements.
Herbivores prefer to consume food scraps, but carnivore species can attack their eggs.
They are not good enough to leave their prey when living nearby, but the right conditions can only provoke them to eat protein-rich earthworms.
How do ants attack worms?
Ants can become deadly for their natural companions because they are collectively participating in the decomposition of decaying organic matter.
Most commonly, deceased earthworms can attract these pests to enjoy a feast because their bodies get dried completely and become easier to grasp with legs and teeth.
Some predatory ants cannot survive within the same compost bin or enter worm farms to kill them to get nutrition from their larger bodies.
They will grip the living worm’s body using a sharp mandible to avoid an escape. Stinger helps inject poisonous material from poison glands into their soft bodies.
Moreover, the poison causes paralysis of their bodies and creates a painful sensation that can exhaust these decomposers and restrict their mobilization.
A swarm of ants chews their dead bodies after the injection of poison. Worms are almost 3 to 5 inches, which means it is not possible to carry their dead bodies to nest.
Accordingly, these insects divide the whole body into multiple chunks and break them down into smaller parts that are easier to carry.
After that, these pieces are returned to their nests and stored for later use when they do not go out for foraging and food collection.
What type of ants cannot live together with worms?
Most ants live in association with worms without harming their eggs and adults because they are interested in food prepared by these organisms.
Army and fire ants are known for their aggressive behavior when their food resources are attacked by other species or members of similar species.
They have sharp mandibles and contain deadly poison in their glands that can kill any organism with a few bites. However, these do not fear attacking larger animals like frogs, lizards, or snakes.
Moreover, they can efficiently deal with a foreign organism after recognizing its presence in their territory, resulting in a swarm of ants attacking their soft bodies.
Additionally, big-headed and harvester ants are also included in the category of predatory insects that are not going to leave an encountered worm and swallow their soft bodies quickly.
Wood and weaver ants are also deadly predators due to poisonous stings and pose a risk to farms in summer only because they hibernate themselves during winter.
The primary preference of fire ants is obtaining food from the leftover fruits and vegetables, but they are voracious predators and can attack living organisms.
How to keep ants away from worm farms?
Ants are considered dangerous for worm farms built at home because these predatory species are commonly found inside buildings.
It is essential to restrict their entry inside the compost bin if you do not want to harm your earthworms.
You can spread diatomaceous earth in a circle around the bin because these insects cannot cross a chalk or diatomaceous earth line and die due to dehydration.
Moreover, make the exterior surface of the bin slippery because their legs do not support climbing on surfaces with reduced friction. Apply petroleum jelly on the exterior of the bin.
You can raise the bin from the ground or create an island because these insects do not cross water. Take a container filled with water and add support in the middle to place the bin over it.
Furthermore, adding a small amount of water to the compost bin is feasible to make it wet because these insects do not get attracted to a highly humid environment.