Some species of ants are dangerous or poisonous due to their large jaws and poisonous stings. Anteaters are large animals with a maximum of 5 to 8 feet body length, sharp claws, and a 1.5 to 2 feet long tongue.
Can Ants Kill an Anteater? Ants cannot kill an anteater due to their bigger bodies, thick skin, protective fur, and quick attacks on colonies. Moreover, they have a long sticky tongue to eat the bulk of insects at once. However, they are not immune to ant bites and walk on knuckles to protect their feet against venomous bites. They avoid eating leafcutters, bullets, and army ants due to the risk of aggressive attacks.
These massive and heavier animals require bigger predators, like pumas and jaguars, and smaller insects, like ants, cannot cause much harm to them.
What is the relation between anteaters and ants?
Ants and anteaters are symbiotically associated with each other but are involved in a negative relationship. They have a parasitic relationship as giant anteaters are deadly for ant colonies.
These bigger animals primarily depend on ants and termites for their nutrition and consume thousands of these tiny insects at once to meet their daily energy requirements.
Their sense of smell is amazingly strong as they can detect the presence of insects under the ground or are even able to distinguish different species to make a better choice.
Insects can become a good source of nutrition for them as their muscular bodies are rich in proteins and other nutrients required for the survival of these giant creatures.
They can consume almost 20,000 to 30,000 ants in a day, as each insect is small enough to fulfill their requirements of food for a day.
Moreover, it is easy for them to eat the smaller insects because they lack teeth to chew the bigger animal bodies and break them into smaller parts.
They use long and sticky tongues to lick these insects from the ground surface after locating their mounds on the ground. They can also consume smaller rocks or soil with ants to aid digestion.
Why can ants not kill an anteater?
Ants can kill smaller invertebrates and small or large vertebrates that are several feet tall when they attack in large groups. These insects attack for two purposes; food or protection.
They are smart and communicate with each other to collectively attack prey, which seems larger to attack and kill individually. They do not kill any organism which cannot be used as food.
Deadly eaters of ants
Anteaters are deadly predators that can wipe out thousands of insects in less than a second by licking their mounds with a long tongue.
Their tongues are almost 1.5 to 2 feet long, and sticky saliva can help capture prey easily. It takes its tongue out of its mouth while staying at a distance from the mound and licking insect bodies.
These tongues are flexible and can be extended according to requirements. These allow giant animals to flick a bulk of insects back to their throat 130 to 150 times in only 50 to 60 seconds.
Quick attack on ant colonies
Anteaters keep their mouth close to the ground to sniff the presence of colonies under the ground. It can differentiate species and choose to eat less poisonous and smaller insects.
Moreover, it can lick the colonies or mounds more than 100 times in a minute and consumes thousands of insects in a short time.
Their attacks are so quick for ants to detect a threat and respond as the soldiers in a colony take a minute to reach their feet or other sensitive parts of their bodies.
However, it does not kill whole colonies to maintain a food source and leaves a few of them. This way, it can reach the old hunting sites again to get more food when queens lay more eggs.
Crushing under sharp claws
They possess sharp claws commonly used in fighting with predators like jaguars but are also used to rip open the mounds of prey insects, including termites and ants.
Their sharp claws can crush thousands of insects at once under their feet and are responsible for massive killing. They can tuck front claws into their palm and walk on their knuckles sometimes.
Accordingly, they prefer to walk on knuckles to avoid the exposure of feet to tiny ants when crawling on the ground closer to their mounds.
It can be a defensive strategy of anteaters to prevent insects from reaching soft feet, as their wider feet can blow their mounds with only one paw.
Thick skin and fur
They have thick leathery skin covering their flesh, preventing ants from injecting stingers or biting their bodies. A layer of fur on their bodies restricts insects from causing harm.
This grey-colored coarse fur having black diagonal stripes can cover their neck and chest region. So, this long fur works like a protective shield against insect attacks.
It is pretty risky to directly expose themselves to mounds filled with thousands of insects, but they have to do so for nutrition, and these protective layers help them in hunting ant mounds.
Furthermore, they have giant bodies ranging between 5 to 8 feet, which requires a large group of insects or whole colonies to kill them.
Small stinger and teeth
A small number of ants cannot inject a large amount of poison with a small stinger to cause a painful sensation, allergic reaction, or paralysis that can lead to their death.
It can be possible only when thousands of insects attack the sensitive body parts of anteaters at once and release toxic chemicals or venom into their body.
Accordingly, it seems not possible for these insects or the whole colony to attack their predator with a common goal, so it benefits from the massive body size and kills them.
Are anteaters immune to ant bites?
Anteaters are not considered completely immune to ant bites as their bodies can react to the venomous bites and stings, but the venom needs to reach their blood.
They bite or sting them as a response to deadly eating by injecting formic acid into their bodies for defensive purposes. Most commonly, their stingers cannot reach their internal layer of skin.
However, they can pin a bigger animal down by attacking the body’s sensitive regions like eyes, nose, or other mouth parts because their venom can cause painful sensations.
Furthermore, these anteaters are not immune but are tolerant of their aggressive attacks. They strategically attack and leave the site in a short time to avoid dealing with their responsive attacks.
Their tongues can also pass the insects back to the throat and stomach quickly that they do not get enough time to inject a stinger on the soft tongue surface.
What type of ants can cause harm to an anteater?
Most commonly, an anteater is not afraid of ants and their attack because it attacks non-poisonous or less-aggressive species by wisely choosing mounds of specific species.
Three species can cause severe harm to these bigger animals, including the army, leafcutter, and bullet ants. Army ants possess large mandibles that can cause deep injuries.
They are pretty aggressive insects, and their defensive bites can be deadly for the predator. In the same way, leafcutter ants can also cause harm to them as they have sharp jaws.
Their teeth are strong enough to carry 50 times their body weight and usually load chunks of leaves in their mouth while carrying them back to nests.
Similarly, bullet ants are poisonous insects that are known to sting and transfer poisonous chemicals into predator bodies, so they can also make them die.
Accordingly, they prefer to avoid these dangerous species but can eat other species like fire, carpenter, sugar, the black garden, pharaoh, or argentine ants.