Ants interact with other insects in nature and become predators of many tiny insects and smaller invertebrates when they want to bring change in their herbivorous diets. Ants and beetles are engaged in a complex relationship as a few species of beetles harm their survival of colonies and hatched eggs, while others only use nest space.
Can Ants Eat Beetles? Ants can eat beetles to get proteins from their muscular bodies for nutritional balance and larvae nutrition. Moreover, they can also eat it due to predatory behavior and consider it as food in the winter season when plant-based foods are not available. Ants can also shift dietary habits to reduce competition with other insects in case of common food sources.
Both of these insects can become a predator of each other, but these can attack ants’ nests for food and shelter.
Why do ants eat beetles?
Ants like to eat other insects and get nutrition from their muscular bodies for different reasons, but primarily, plant-based foods cannot provide all types of nutrients to these tiny insects.
Small insects, like beetles, are good protein sources, containing almost 25% to 50% protein content, which can vary in different species of these insects.
The dry mass of rhinoceros beetles contains almost 25% to 28% of protein content, while yam beetles have approximately 37% to 39%.
However, the African palm weevil is another species with a larger content of proteins, ranging between 48% and 50%. This high content of protein helps build muscular bodies.
In addition, high consumption of protein can make them strong and improve their lifting abilities, as healthy insects with more muscle mass can carry heavy loads.
They choose food options according to their availability, so they have to make less effort to forage. In the same way, they can consider beetles as a food source due to seasonal availability.
They are considered predators of ants and usually win the battle due to their larger size. Accordingly, they enjoy the meat of dead beetles and fight with living insects in groups to kill them.
They plan to kill this larger predator when these tiny insects see them moving around their territory or exploring their habitat for food.
Furthermore, it seems like a do-or-die war, as one of them ultimately becomes prey for the winner after the battle, as both can eat each other.
Beetles can become an excellent food source for maintaining colonies and ant larvae as they need protein-rich diets in the early stages of their growth cycle.
Moreover, a compromised diet with low protein content can affect their growth cycle and produce unhealthy adults with poor strength to perform nest activities.
Accordingly, adult workers can collect dead beetles from the surroundings and break their bodies into tiny pieces to make them available for larval nutrition.
These workers eat their muscular bodies and regurgitate them to feed the tiny larvae or pupae, as they cannot completely digest their bodies.
The carnivorous species of ants like to eat beetles because their diet usually relies on arthropods and smaller invertebrates. They prefer to eat meat rather than floral nectar and fruit juices.
Moreover, these tiny insects can also fight and kill beetles during defense and devour their dead bodies as a reward because their bodies can provide nutrition.
They have incredible fighting skills and attack the prey with their larger mandibles. They inject poison or toxic chemicals directly into the prey’s body through a stinger, resulting in death.
They can improve their diet by eating varying food types because plant-based foods cannot help maintain a balanced diet and lack a few nutrients.
Accordingly, they can get nutritional benefits by consuming bodies of beetles that are a rich source of fatty acids. In addition, some trace elements are also present, including copper, iron, and zinc.
Magnesium, manganese, selenium, phosphorous, and other vitamins, like riboflavin, biotin, folic acid, and pantothenic acid, are also present, which can improve their health.
Many insects rely on the same food sources to obtain nutrition, resulting in competition, which can turn into deadly battles sometimes.
Ants prefer changing their dietary habits and exploiting different food sources when other insects consume the same food. Similar food resources can pose a risk of deadly fights among insects.
Eating beetles can be a strategy to reduce competition with other insects relying on plant-based food sources. It can help them survive for a long when they do not fight for resources.
How do ants attack beetles?
Ants have amazing hunting skills and fighting potential to deal with bigger predators and prey animals when they feel hungry or threatened to attack.
They are pretty skillful predators that can capture a bigger animal using their teeth and legs and attack in groups. Their powerful teeth can help bite and pierce the skin of animals.
In addition, some species of ants are venomous, containing toxic chemicals in their poison gland, and use this venom to paralyze the animals.
They inject harmful chemicals into their bodies using stingers and restrict their movement due to severe pain, resulting in death.
An individual ant cannot overpower a larger insect, so they attack collectively and cooperate with each other to enjoy the protein-rich food after successfully killing them.
Do ants eat beetle larvae?
Most commonly, ants eat dead insects and their larvae for nutrition and avoid living insects if their prey is many times bigger in size because there is a risk of death.
Accordingly, they can also eat the larvae of beetles whenever they get an opportunity to fill their bellies with the nutritious meat of these soft-bodied insects.
Their powerful mandibles can easily devour the soft bodies of tiny larvae of these insects and chew them quickly to get proteins. They actively hunt for larvae and eggs of other insects to eat them.
The carnivorous or predatory species, like bulldogs, bullet, and weaver ants, commonly attack living beetles and their larvae, but herbivorous species commonly consume dead insects.
Moreover, these larger predatory insects can also target ant eggs and larvae in addition to adult insects by hijacking their nests and eating them for nutrition.
These are common predators and cover their bodies with chemicals that mimic ants’ body secretions to enter their nests and get access to larvae or eggs.
Can ants and beetles live together?
Ants and beetles can live together in one place and engage in different types of relationships, like predation, mutualism, commensalism, and competition.
Some species of beetles can hide in their nest and live in close proximity to these insects without causing any significant harm to them.
Paussus beetles can mimic the odor of chemical secretions of ants by releasing similar secretions from antennae and stridulating their bodies in the same manner.
This way, they can enter their nests and hijack the colonies of these social insects because soldiers in the colony only allow insects with the same body odor.
Moreover, they share nests with arboreal ants and live close to them without being recognized as an enemy or foreign insects.
It can also mimic the sound of queens belonging to the genus Pheidole and living in their nests. So, a few species engage in a positive relationship and live there to get shelter.
However, others can be predators of ants and compete with these tiny insects for food resources, territories, and nesting sites.
Furthermore, some species avoid each other to reduce the chances of fight and competition, as their fights can be deadly for one of the two species of insects.