Ever found yourself wondering, “what animals eat ants?” Your curiosity is not alone! This tiny but mighty insect forms an essential part of the diet of various creatures, from the land-dwelling aardvark to the sky-soaring sparrow, and surprisingly even humans!
Ants play a significant role in the circle of life, feeding the hungry mouths of countless species across the globe, often without us even realizing it.
Yet, identifying the wide array of animals that feast on these small insects can be a daunting task. Fear not, as this blog will serve as your comprehensive guide to uncovering the complex web of ant eaters.
By reading on, you’ll gain an incredible insight into the gastronomic preferences of mammals, birds, reptiles, and even other insects. Our aim? To solve the mystery surrounding the question: “what animals eat ants?”
What are Animals that eat ants?
Despite their diminutive size, ants play a crucial and influential role within the broader animal kingdom. Many animals rely on them for food.
Animals like aardvarks and anteaters have long tongues that they use to eat ants. Some birds, like sparrows and woodpeckers, pick ants off trees and grass.
Even lizards and certain types of frogs like to eat ants. And among insects, antlion larvae set traps to catch ants.
So, ants are not just hard workers and unwanted guests at picnics, they also help feed many different types of animals.
7 Mammal Species that can eat Ants
Starting with Aardvarks, these animals are known for their amazing ability to consume ants. Using their long, sticky tongue, they feast on ants with much gusto, often consuming thousands of them in a single night.
They are adapted to an insectivorous diet and have a keen sense of smell that helps them locate their prey.
Just like their names suggest, Anteaters are one of the most well-known ant-eaters. From the giant anteater to the silky anteater, all species are adept at eating ants.
They use their powerful claws to rip open anthills and then use their long, sticky tongues to consume ants by the hundreds.
Black Bears have a diverse diet, and while they do eat ants, it is not a significant part of their diet. However, when food sources are scarce, they will dig into anthills or rotting logs to find ants and other insects.
Though primarily carnivorous, Coyotes are opportunistic feeders, which means they eat what is readily available and easy to get. This often includes insects like ants, especially during leaner times when meat is scarce.
The Pangolin, also known as the ‘scaly anteater,‘ is a unique mammal that also feeds primarily on ants. They use their long, sticky tongue to slurp up ants, and their armored scales provide protection from ant bites.
Sloth Bears, unlike other bear species, are more insectivorous, with ants and termites making up a significant part of their diet. They possess long, sickle-shaped claws that help them dig into anthills.
Believe it or not, ants have been consumed by humans throughout history and across cultures. Many indigenous communities eat ants, especially the larvae and pupae, for their nutritional value.
For example, in the remote province of Gia Lai, Vietnam, there are people who consider ants as specialties and have been incorporating them into their diets for generations.
These culinary enthusiasts have a unique appreciation for the earthy flavor and crunchy texture that ants add to their traditional dishes.
Embracing their cultural heritage, they continue to harvest and savor these tiny creatures, celebrating the age-old practice of those who eat ants as a cherished culinary tradition.
However, it’s important to know which species are safe to consume!
8 Bird species that can eat Ants
Contrary to what their name might suggest, Antbirds don’t often eat ants even when they can. Found in tropical forests, they frequently trail swarms of army ants, not to consume the ants themselves, but to catch any insects attempting to escape from these ants.
Similar to antbirds, Antpittas also have a diet that includes ants. They are known to forage on the forest floor, where they catch ants and other small insects.
Ravens are omnivorous and are known to eat almost anything, including ants. The diet of these birds includes various insects, including ants such as the leaf cutter and the fire ant. They are highly adaptable and often scavenge for food.
Robins use their sharp beaks to pick up ants from the ground, ants are part of their insectivorous diet. They have even been observed engaging in “anting,” where they rub ants over their feathers, possibly to deter parasites.
Sparrows, especially ground-dwelling varieties, eat ants along with other small insects and seeds. Their diet can shift based on what food sources are available.
Brahminy Kites have a varied diet that includes insects. While ants aren’t a primary part of their diet, they may consume them occasionally.
Woodpeckers are well-known for their insect-eating habits. They use their long, barbed tongues to extract ants from tree bark and logs.
Flickers, a type of woodpecker, are also known to eat ants. In fact, ants can make up a large part of their diet, especially during the breeding season.
4 Amphibian and Reptile species that can eat ants
Blind Snakes are tiny, non-venomous snakes that feed primarily on ants and termites. They use their small, sharp teeth to capture and consume their prey.
Horned Lizards, also known as “horny toads,” are well-known ant eaters. Some species, like the Texas Horned Lizard, can eat dozens of ants a day.
The diet of Narrow-Mouthed Toads consists mostly of small invertebrates, including ants. They use their sticky tongues to catch and eat their prey.
Poison Dart Frogs
While known for their toxic skin, many Poison Dart Frogs also eat small invertebrates like ants. In fact, certain ant species contribute to the toxins these frogs produce.
Spiders and other Insect species that can eat Ants
Antlion larvae, also known as “doodlebugs,” are notorious ant predators. They create small pits in the sand to trap ants and other small insects.
Assassin Bugs are known for their predatory habits, often feeding on ants. They use their long rostrum to pierce and immobilize their prey.
Some species of flies, especially in their larval stages, are known to feed on ants. These include hoverfly larvae and certain species of parasitic flies.
While most caterpillars are herbivores, some, like the Caterpillars of the Lycaenid butterfly, have mutualistic relationships with ants, and others may feed on them.
Certain snail species, like the rosy wolf snail, are known to eat ants. They typically consume ants trapped in their slimy trails.
Wolf Spiders are hunters and will eat ants if given the chance. They rely on their speed and stealth, rather than webs, to capture their prey.
Jumping Spiders, despite their small size, are skilled hunters. They can and do eat ants, although their diet varies greatly depending on the species.
Surprisingly, some ant species are cannibalistic. Certain larger ants will prey on smaller ant species, demonstrating the rule of survival of the fittest in the insect world.
Phorid Flies are often called ‘ant-decapitating flies’ as their larvae feed on the heads of ants. They are a natural predator of fire ants, often used in biological control methods.
Will Anteaters Eat Fire Ants?
While anteaters can and do eat a variety of ant species, fire ants can be a problematic meal due to their venomous sting. Therefore, they usually prefer other types of ants.
Is It Safe For Humans To Eat Ants?
Yes, many ants are safe for humans to eat and are even considered delicacies in certain cultures. However, it’s important to know which species are edible, as some ants, like fire ants, are venomous.
Can You Die From Eating Poisonous Ants?
While it is unlikely for someone to die from eating a few poisonous ants, consuming them in large quantities or having an allergic reaction could potentially be harmful or fatal. Therefore, it’s best to avoid eating unknown species of ants.
Do Grasshoppers Eat Ants?
Grasshoppers are primarily herbivores, but they can be opportunistic omnivores. While it’s not common, some grasshoppers may eat ants if other food sources are scarce.
In the wonderful world of nature, the question of “what animals eat ants” leads us down many fascinating paths.
If you’re curious about human eating ants, their benefits, and how to incorporate them into your diet, visit Eating Ants to uncover the lesser-known world of entomophagy (eating insects).
If you love what you’ve learnt from Pestweek, share this blog on your social channels, spreading the surprising facts about ants’ role in our natural world!
Calina Mabel has over 15 years of experience in the field of journalism and communications. Currently, Calina Mabel is the Content Writer for categories such as Cockroach, Ants, Bed Bugs, Mosquito, Rodent, Termite, and Flies on Pestweek.com. She aims to build content for these categories with a focus on providing valuable and accessible information to readers, in order to create the world’s largest knowledge community about Pests.
All content written by Calina Mabel has been reviewed by Emily Carter.