Every living organism on the planet has a natural enemy or a predator that can kill and eat them. Similarly, predatory ants also risk deadly attacks as they are considered prey for some animals.
Do Ants Have Natural Predators? Ants have many natural predators belonging to groups of arthropods, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, pathogens, and even other ants when there is a competition or threat. Anteaters eat ants the most, and moth butterflies are considered their worst enemies. They can avoid deadly attacks by stinging, biting, and making themselves distasteful.
Predators are usually powerful and larger animals than the prey that can kill other living organisms for food. Ants have natural enemies, and they use various ways to protect themselves.
What are the natural predators of ants?
Many natural predators of ants exist worldwide because their bodies are easy to swallow and rich in proteins that cannot fulfill their daily requirements but provide some nutrition.
One of the common predators of ants are arthropods and insects, including spiders, beetles, centipedes, butterflies, phorid flies, and many others.
A few species of spiders are known to enter inside their nest by covering their bodies with chemical secretions resembling ants to smell like them.
This way, they can get close to queens, eggs, and inactive workers to get a chance to eat them without being noticed by the workers in the entry hole.
Moreover, the black widow and jumping spiders are deadly for these tiny insects that can sometimes become prey when a group of these small creatures attacks collectively.
In addition, the rove beetle and paussines mimic ants because their appearance and nature of chemical secretions is similar to them.
It leads to the entry of beetles into their colonies that can be responsible for massive killing. The tetradonia beetles are efficient killers of the army ants population and feed on their workers.
Furthermore, the venomous bites of centipedes and toxins of assassin bugs can be responsible for the death of a few workers when they come across these deadly arthropods.
Amphibians and reptiles
A few amphibians and reptiles are also natural predators, but ants are not a primary source of their diet because their small bodies cannot provide enough nutrition to the larger creatures.
Some lizards, like horned lizards, attack colonies to eat a few of these insects, but it is considered a secondary source of nutrition as they have to eat a bulk of these insects to meet requirements.
The frogs also eat them whenever they get a chance to get closer to their colony or trails. The poison dart frogs eat these insects without worrying about their poisonous bodies.
Furthermore, the snakes can also attack their colonies to eat some ants that can add proteins to their diet when consumed in large numbers, but these insects can also kill smaller snakes.
Most commonly, mammals eat the meat of other animals, while a few of them also consume plant-based foods, like leaves, fruits, and shoots.
Eating ants is not the primary choice of most mammals because they need excess food to meet their body requirements, and these insects are relatively smaller in size.
However, aardvarks and anteaters are insectivores that prefer to consume tiny insects on the ground by extending their tongues to lick a large number of these insects.
They eat hundreds or thousands of ants and termites in a day by reaching their nests as their smell organs are strong enough to detect these insects living under the ground.
Furthermore, pangolins and some primates, like tamarins and marmosets, are common predators of these insects, as their diet relies on these tiny creatures.
Armadillo is a nocturnal mammal and chief predator of leafcutter ants commonly found in rainforests because their lifestyle is based on trees and leaves.
They have a lesser risk of predatory attacks from birds, but a few of these birds can become deadly for these tiny creatures to get nutrients.
The woodpeckers, particularly acorn woodpeckers and flycatchers, attack insects, including ants, to get some nutritious food from their bodies.
Some species of hornbills also consume these tiny insects to eat their protein-rich muscular bodies. Ravens and crows do not prefer to eat ants, but sparrows and starlings eat them.
Furthermore, pigeons, chickens, hummingbirds, and grouse also eat ants in the wild or domestic environment when they find these insects crawling on the ground while picking food.
It is interesting to know that a few species of ants have a cannibalistic nature and attack other fellows from the same or different colonies when they have a shortage of food resources.
The queen ant can eat their larvae when it is going to start a colony until the first generation gets mature and workers take care of their nutrition.
In addition, the thief ants steal eggs and larvae from other colonies by entering their nests through deep tunnels leading to their nests.
Some species are territorial and do not tolerate interference, so they can kill invading populations of other insects trying to establish their colonies within their territory.
It seems a little weird to think of pathogens as predators of ants, but they can cause the death of these tiny insects or destroy entire colonies.
These insects also get sick when bacterial, fungal, or viral pathogens attack their bodies, having lesser resistance against infection.
A deadly virus can wipe out their colony by passing from food particles down to the colony when the workers interact with larvae and queens.
This way, the queens become prone to viral infections and die shortly, resulting in the death of the whole colony because she is responsible for introducing new generations.
Furthermore, a parasitic fungus grows on ants when the spores attach to the bodies of foraging workers and penetrate their exoskeleton, which affects their behavior slowly.
What is an ant’s worst enemy?
Ants have many potential threats of attack in the environment because there are a lot of natural predators, but the moth butterfly is considered the worst enemy of all.
These female moth butterflies are deadly for them because they lay eggs directly on their bodies or within the nest. The eggs develop into larvae, which can eat the nearby insects in the colony.
Moreover, the soldiers cannot remove their oval eggs and have harder bodies. This hard shell makes them heavy, and soldiers cannot break them to protect the colony.
In addition, some spiders are also dangerous for these tiny insects as they catch prey within the web by spinning it around their bodies.
Furthermore, the anteaters eat ants the most because their bigger bodies need more food due to the smaller size of these insects. They can eat almost 20,000 to 30,000 insects in a day.
How do ants avoid natural predators?
Ants develop strategies to fight natural predators because they have to face threats from enemies living in the same environment.
They have a risk of destruction to habitats, colonies, and their own life, so they make use of their biting abilities to ward off predators.
Moreover, their stings are also painful and can cause a burning sensation in the affected area for some time if their secretions are toxic.
Fire, bullet, and bulldog ants are commonly known for their deadly stings that can potentially cause swelling or redness after stinging.
Furthermore, they release chemical secretions on their bodies to make them distasteful to predators because the predating organisms do not eat prey with bad odors and tastes.
Their colonies have soldiers to fight and keep the natural enemies away from their nests to protect the queen, larvae, and inactive workers living inside nest chambers.