What Insects do Ants Eat? [This Will Keep Them Full]

Everyone knows that ants are the most abundant insect in the world. Besides Antarctica, ants dominate nearly every ecosystem. When you see one, do you wonder what they’re up to? Or what they’ve been eating? Many of us have probably seen ants carry much larger food, like insects, over their heads.

Ants will eat all types of insects. These insects include crickets, earwigs, grasshoppers, termites, cockroaches, maggots, mealworms, etc. Ants rarely waste food, and since they’re scavengers, insects that have died from other natural causes will still be on the menu.

In this 5-minute article, we will explore what insects ants eat, how ants handle these insects large insects,  as well as some common questions you may have about ants and their eating habits.

You don’t want to miss this one.

Do ants eat flies?

One common insect that ants like to eat is flies. Flies are attracted to the ants’ chemical signals and sweet substances that ants feed on, and when they land on an ant, the ant will grab hold of the fly and then proceed to eat it.

Ants are also very well known for eating butterflies, a tasty treat for the colony!

The red ant feeds on the carcass of the dead butterfly back to the nest.

They love eating flies and frequently construct their nests close to where flies are commonly found.

If you have a fly problem, you may want to consider ants as a possible solution!

What bugs do ants eat?

Ants eat small insects and other small invertebrates. They find these tiny creatures by following their chemical trails. Once they find their prey, they will kill it and return it to the ant colony. The other ants will then eat the dead invertebrate in the colony.

While ants comfortably eat small soft insects, they struggle to eat larger ones, and this is because their mandibles are not strong enough to break through the hard exoskeleton of these larger insects.

a black beetle sits on a stalk in a meadow

If you have an ant colony in your backyard, you may be able to see them eating scale insects.

If you see them trying to eat a larger insect, you can help by breaking their exoskeleton.

Just be careful not to squish the ant!

Do ants kill other insects?

Ants can kill other insects. Many ant species, including black ants, attack and kill other insects. Black ants are incredibly aggressive and will often attack other colonies of ants. This behavior is usually seen during food scarcity or when the ant colony is threatened.

While most ant species will only attack other insects if they feel threatened, some ant species are known to be cannibalistic.

These ants will kill and eat other members of their colony.

This behavior is often seen in colonies under stress or where food is scarce.

ant colony roaming around
macro red ant

What do Ants do with Dead Insects?

Most ants eat insects, and some predatory ants kill and eat live prey. Some species of ants will even farm aphids for their honeydew! If you have ever seen an ant carrying a dead cockroach or another large insect, it is most likely taking the carcass back to its nest to be eaten.

Some species of ants bury dead insects.

This helps to keep the area around the nest clean and also helps to prevent other insects from stealing the food. 

Burying food is sometimes mandatory for a colony’s food storage, as a competing colony may also gather around the dead insect.

Ants will also bury their dead ants to protect the colony from disease and to keep predators away. (Source)


Do spiders eat ants?

Spiders are predators and will eat all insects they can catch. This includes ants. Spiders will actively hunt ants or build webs to trap them. However, spiders cannot digest the hard exoskeleton of an ant; hence they only eat the soft parts of the ant, such as the abdomen.

Spiders may help reduce the ants’ population if you have ant infestations.

However, to eliminate all the ants, you must use an ant control method like ant bait.

a predatory spider with prey as a bridal gift

Are ants carnivores?

Ants are not carnivores but omnivores. They will eat just about anything small enough to carry, including sugary foods, other ants, and insects such as larvae, eggs, dead animals, and plants. The diet of ant colonies can vary depending on what is available to them.

Ants are opportunistic feeders and take advantage of whatever food source is available.

This scavenger mentality makes them adaptable and able to live in various habitats.

Some ants will change their diet based on the time of year or the availability of food sources.

Do ants eat meat?

Ants can consume animal tissue, but this is not a standard part of their diet. Carnivorous ants will eat fresh carcasses, but they are more likely to scavenge on animal remains that have already decomposed. Some ants will even eat other animals, such as caterpillars and grubs.

When worker ants stray from their vegetarian high-carb diet, it is usually because they cannot find the food sources they prefer.

If there is a lack of plant life in an area, ants may turn to eat dead insects or small animals.

However, this does not mean ants are carnivores; they typically only consume meat when necessary or if the colony is in growth mode.

The worker ants will not eat the protein, returning it to the colony for the queen and the larvae.

Raw sliced beef meat on wooden board close up

Do ants eat spiders?

Ants eat spiders. Sometimes the ant will bite the spider on the back of its head and inject a liquid into its brain. This liquid paralyzes the spider, and the ant drags it back to its nest. The spider will be eaten by the ants or used to feed the larvae.

Other times, the spider will be eaten alive.

If the spider is too big for the ant to eat, the ant will cut off a leg or two and take it back to the colony.

So, if you see fire ants or red ants carrying a spider back to the colony, it’s not because the ants are trying to clean up the environment.

The spider is probably going to be dinner! (Read More)

Do ants eat maggots?

Ants love to eat maggots and will often be seen carrying them back to their nests. Fire ants are especially fond of maggots and often build their nests near areas with a lot of dead animal matter, making it possible for them always to have food available.

Maggots are also a good source of protein for ants and help the young larvae grow strong. Maggots are one of the most accessible sources of food for ants. 

All they have to do is find dead animals, and they can feast on the maggots found there.

Now they have two meals, the maggots and the inside of the decomposing carcass.

maggots in a rat

What insects do queen ants eat?

A queen ant’s diet consists mainly of other insects, including crickets, earwigs, grasshoppers, and even termites. Also, queen ants eat cockroaches. While a queen ant can survive independently, she will generally have worker ants to find food.

Insects aren’t the only thing on a queen ant’s menu; they also consume sweet honeydew and sugary foods.

This helps them produce the energy they need to lay eggs and care for their colony.

A queen ant’s diet is essential to her and her colony’s survival.

Without the right food, a queen ant could not produce the necessary offspring to keep her colony alive.

What insects do worker ants eat?

Worker ants eat many insects, including caterpillars, beetles, and flies. They also eat other dead invertebrates, such as spiders and millipedes. While protein is great for an ant, they mostly save it to return to the colony and continue looking for carbs. 

Also, worker ants like to eat nectar.

They collect nectar from flowers using their long tongues.

The nectar is then returned to the nest and used as food for the colony.

fire ant mound

Do Ants Eat Grass and Leaves?

While most ants prefer sweet foods, some species are known to eat plant matter. Leafcutter ants are especially fond of plant matter, as they use it to cultivate fungus gardens. These ants do not eat the grass or leaves but consume the plant sap.

If you have ever seen an ant carrying a piece of leaf much larger and heavier than its body weight, it is probably a leafcutter ant.

leafcutter ant

Some carpenter ants eat plant matter but only use wood to line their nests.

Fire ants eat plant seeds, young plants, and everything else, including other insects.

Different species of ants have other diets, but most prefer sweet foods.


Conclusion, What Insects do Ants Eat?

Ants are essential creatures with complex diets.

Understanding what insects they eat helps you understand their importance in the ecosystem and why they are such a nuisance when they invade your home’s cereal boxes, sugar bowls, or pantry.

Their fascinating diet is just one more thing that makes these creatures so interesting.