Ants are pretty smart creatures and choose their food wisely, as they do not leave an opportunity to extract nutrients from nutrient-rich food types and leave toxic substances. Sometimes, they chew bones for nutritional purposes, while they can also use it to build their nests and live inside their narrow spaces.
Can Ants Eat Bones? Ants can eat bones to acquire calcium and consume collagen, but these are hard enough and difficult to digest. They can break it into smaller parts by chewing the soft pieces and collecting bones after eating meat to use them for building nests, as these help maintain the structural stability of their nests.
Harvester ants, big-headed ants, and bone ants usually collect bones to obtain nutrition. They are opportunistic eaters that can consume almost everything from soft rubber to hardwood, but a few species also have the potential to degrade bones.
Do ants eat bones?
Ants have large and powerful mandibles that are large according to their body size but are pretty small as they have tiny bodies extending to only a few millimeters in length.
Moreover, bones are made of collagen protein and calcium phosphate, which strengthens their framework and makes them hard. These are a rich source of calcium that makes bone strong.
Bones cannot bend and twist due to their rigid structure, and these tiny insects can’t chew its hard material.
In addition, they cannot chew cortical bones or the outer layer because it is particularly solid, while they can eat proteins or collagens, which are soft and easier to consume.
It is not considered a primary source of nutrition for these insects because they prefer sugary foods and plant material over meat and change their dietary habits occasionally.
They reach bones covered with meat due to food scarcity and acquire minerals like calcium and other organic substances that are naturally present in them.
However, they cannot digest it completely due to the lack of enzymes required for digesting this hard structure efficiently, so they only break it into smaller pieces.
How do ants eat bones?
Ants are scavenging organisms that can consume decaying organic matter and extract essential nutrient elements locked within these hard structures.
They get attracted to dead carcasses of animals on the ground as the aroma of dead animals allures their odor receptors and grabs their attention.
Accordingly, they can quickly reach the spot in a short time after detecting the odor and stripping off the bones. They stop after reaching hard parts in dead carcasses, which are hard to chew.
In addition, they only show interest in the soft pulp and consume the internal mass for nutrition. They make tunnels within them and initiate the process of fragmentation by breaking into pieces.
Ants facilitate decomposition and accelerate the breakdown process. The fragmentation of bones increases the surface area and allows microbes to grow on them.
Some decomposing bacteria can help break down them over a certain time period and turn them into smaller chunks and fine particles.
So, they only extract nutrients from the internal pulp or collagen and leave the bones usually. It does not mean that they do not try to chew it, as the presence of calcium can attract them.
Why do ants collect bones?
Some species of ants do not leave bones on the spot after eating meat or bacon and take them back to the nest. They collect bones to use for building stable and strong nest structures.
Commonly, they use twigs, pieces of small branches, and pebbles to make their nest structurally stable, as soil particles can easily get disturbed without any hard material.
They break bones into smaller fragments that are easy to carry from the spot back to the nest. They fix it between their mandibles to maintain a good hold on the object and take it to the colony.
Colony members or workers chew these rigid structures slowly and extract nutrients from them. They break the remaining hard structures into small parts and use them for building nests.
Incorporating these durable components into nest-building activities and mixing them with soil particles can help maintain their integrity and strengthen the overall structure.
Moreover, it can become a physical barrier and help create a safe nesting spot for these insects by reducing the risk of breakage and destruction and attacking predators.
Winds and flooding after rain cannot cause significant damage to their nests if they add hard and durable structures into the soil while building a home for them.
What type of bones can attract ants?
Ants are small creatures that prefer to eat soft and small food particles as they are easy to chew and swallow. Accordingly, they can efficiently strip off the bones of dead animals to get nutrition.
Moreover, they can attack dead lizards, frogs, and other smaller vertebrates, having a tiny and thin structural framework in their bodies that is easier to break for insects.
They can quickly reach a dead lizard or salamander by recognizing their decaying bodies’ foul odor and eating their meat in groups.
After that, they can break their bones into several fragments and return them to the nest. These are usually stored or used for making walls around nests.
It can be time-consuming as they have to leave a strong impact by striking with their mandibles.
However, this time depends on the size of the dead animal, as bigger ones have larger bones or frameworks that can take more time compared to smaller vertebrates.
Dead bodies of small birds or their babies can also attract these insects that can facilitate the decomposing process by chewing their meat and tiny bones.
Furthermore, they can chew dead squirrels, rats, mice, and other smaller vertebrates, but higher vertebrates pose a significant challenge.
Bones of humans, elephants, tigers, leopards, and other larger animals are pretty strong, large, and hard and can only degrade naturally or after the action of microorganisms.
Which type of ants can eat bones?
Some predatory species of ants are known to be dwelling ants that get attracted to bones covered with meat, particularly when they need protein in their diet.
They enjoy eating meat and deal with hard bones efficiently by dwelling in the hard structures. These make deep tunnels and live inside them safely.
In addition, the East African harvester ant also transfers the bones into the nest and uses them for building stable and durable nests.
Their tiny house is usually at lesser risk of destruction if hard objects like pebbles, twigs, and bones are present in the walls of compartments.
Moreover, ants in the Pheidole group also show interest in dead vertebrates due to their strong framework and chewing of the internal soft material.
They use bones as shelter and begin to live inside them by making tunnels. They can also avail an opportunity to live inside the pre-existing tunnels within bones without any risk of destruction.
Furthermore, some other meat-loving insects also make efforts to chew these hard structures, but it is not possible for smaller species to deal with these strong bones.
The larger carnivorous ant species can make holes and tunnels within the bones of smaller vertebrates that are easier to break into several fragments.