Ants in a compost bin are a nightmare for worm farmers because they do not want to lose their composting organisms that are raised or grown for vermicomposting. However, earthworms are common in a compost bin due to their burrowing nature.
Do Ants Kill Earthworms? Ants can kill earthworms by directly attacking their bodies or breaking them into smaller parts and indirectly by reaching inside the compost bin and depleting food sources. You can protect earthworms from attacks by raising moisture levels, making bins sticky, using diatomaceous earth around compost bins, or creating an island around them.
Worms are not predators of ants and avoid eating live insects, but they can feed on dead ants. In the same way, ants are found to be least interested in eating live earthworms.
However, it does not ensure safety because lack of food and the need for protein-rich food can make them ferocious predators of worms.
Why do ants kill earthworms?
Ants are omnivorous creatures that can eat a variety of food types based on plants and animals, depending on the availability of food.
They can switch dietary habits to insects and other invertebrates when they need protein-rich food to help larvae grow and develop.
Commonly, you can see them getting inside the compost bins to get food filled with tiny worms, particularly earthworms, rotting fruits, or vegetable scrapes.
Earthworms feed on the germs and microbes growing on decaying matter within the bin, while ants consume the decaying vegetables and fruits to get nutrition and provide energy to the body.
They are responsible for killing tiny worms by direct or indirect means. Direct killing involves the attack of stinging or biting insects on the soft bodies of prey to make them die.
It usually occurs in the wild environment when these insects reach decaying organic matter to look for the food source and attack these worms to meet their body requirements.
They show less interest in live earthworms and usually reach the bodies of freshly deceased ones. However, some predatory insects can aggressively kill them to eat their protein-rich bodies.
The ant species commonly found in urban areas can reach trash bins outdoors or compost bins filled with worms and kitchen or lawn scrapes.
Accordingly, they can also be responsible for indirect killing by consuming their food sources and depleting the nutrients for them to survive.
How do ants kill earthworms?
Ants can kill small creatures in the surrounding areas of their territories to get nutrients and feed the colony. They possess sharp mandibles and a long stinger to transfer venom into prey bodies.
They can potentially kill smaller or bigger earthworms, reaching a maximum length of almost 7 to 13 inches. They use stingers to inject poison into their soft bodies for immobilization.
Moreover, the toxic material can make them feel helpless and cause paralysis of prey within a few minutes after entering their bodies.
After that, they begin to bite their bodies using sharp or zinc-coated mandibles to make them die. These strong mandibles also help maintain a good hold over their bodies to avoid escapes.
These tiny creatures wait for their prey to die of the toxicity of poison and begin to chop it down into smaller pieces. It is not possible to carry a bigger prey back to the nest.
Most colony members or workers assist each other in devouring their bodies and carrying the pieces back to their colonies.
Furthermore, indirect killing is not an intentional attack to kill the worms, but their population declines when they do not find a nutrient source within the trash or compost bins.
How do you protect earthworms from ants?
It is essential to keep ants away from earthworms if you are a dedicated worm farmer because their populations can be deadly for the composting creatures, intentionally or accidentally.
You can protect the farms or vermicomposting bins from the attack of insects looking for moisture and food by keeping the bins moist, as these insects do not like highly humid conditions.
Moreover, you can keep stirring the bin regularly to avoid the infestation of ant colonies within the bin as they quickly leave a spot posing a threat after disturbance.
Their eggs cannot survive without the care provided by adult insects. So, they will die without workers that will leave the bins when you make them feel threatened by stirring.
Diatomaceous earth can also be used to make a boundary around bins because this powder repels or kills these insects and protect composters from attack.
In addition, you can make the outer surface of trash or compost bins sticky using petroleum jelly or Vaseline, which creates difficulty for tiny insects to climb.
A double-sided tape on the bottom boundary of the bin can also pose a problem for ants with sticky feet. They are at risk of being stuck while trying to cross the sticky tape.
Creating an island around the vermicomposter or a farm can help avoid the attack of deadly or predatory ants because they are not good swimmers.
You can take a large container filled with water and place a support on the bottom for a bin to keep it raised from the water’s surface. It can help protect them from ferocious attacks of insects.
How many ants can kill an earthworm?
Earthworms have soft and flexible bodies divided into different segments that lack bones. Their flexible skeleton allows them to burrow into the soil and reach decaying matter.
Their bodies are sensitive to stings and bites from ants and react against the poison. These insects sting their soft bodies with a long stinger and inject poison, followed by biting.
It is not possible for a single ant to kill them as they have their defensive strategies to avoid attacks. They twist their bodies wildly to free themselves from the attacker.
Accordingly, groups of almost 20 to 50 ants can kill an earthworm by biting on the different parts of its segmented and streamlined body.
However, this number of insects in an attacking group depends on the length of the prey body, as some smaller ones can get died after receiving stings from only 10 to 15 insects.
What type of ants can kill an earthworm?
Ants and earthworms can live together in one place, but their common food sources lead to competition for survival. They have to lose and die when ants are carnivorous.
A few species have carnivorous or predatory nature, while others are friendly to earthworms that can live together in one place without causing harm to each other.
The sugar, black garden, argentine, and pharaoh ants or a few other species do not eat live earthworms but get attracted to freshly deceased bodies.
However, the red imported fire ants cannot survive with these in one container or a bin because their predatory nature allows them to sting and transfer venom into their bodies.
In addition, the carpenter or wood ants can attack the bins for food and kill them to add some proteins to their diet.
They do not affect the composting process or composting organisms in winter because they hide or hibernate under the ground or indoors due to cold weather.
Furthermore, army ants are bigger insects with larger mandibles and aggressive nature. They move in massive numbers and chop down an earthworm after encountering it on their way.
They are responsible for bigger bites on prey bodies, having a diameter of only 7 to 9 mm, making them die due to severe injuries and pain.