What do ants eat? A feast fit for an ant

This could be a short blog. What do ants eat? Answer; just about everything.

Different species of ants have different favourite foods. There are over 50,000 species of ants that have been identified and named, and there are more species out there yet to be discovered. But from the point of view of our customers in the east of England, the chances are that you are more concerned with the most common species living in your garden – or, perhaps, in your house.

The most common ant in England is the black garden ant, the one everyone knows. Like most ant species, they have a varied diet, including;

  • Plant material such as leaves, berries, fruit and vegetables
  • Other insects, rival ants invading their colony and the remains of dead birds
  • Fungi
  • Nectar, and other sweet things such as jam and syrup.
  • After their brief summer spell as a flying ant comes to an end, queen ants will tear off their own wings and eat them and they may eat some of their own eggs and larvae.

Ants use their mandibles to tear food into manageable portions, carry it home to their colony and chew it into liquid form. If you have little black ants scurrying around in your kitchen at the moment, it’s probable that they are there in search of discarded food. Did you spill some sugar? Drip some honey from a spoon onto the floor? That just rang the dinner bell for these ants – they’ll eat any kind of human food, but they prefer the sweet stuff. Find out where they’re getting into your house, block their access points – and clean up discarded food in your house. Don’t invite an ant to your party, he’ll bring a hundred mates.

Gardeners discourage ants from setting up colonies in the belief that ants damage plants. Indirectly, they do. Ants protect aphids from their predators because aphids excrete honeydew – a sticky sweet substance that the ants eat – and the aphids damage the plants. Plants suffer when the soil around their roots is loosened by ants digging out tunnels for their colonies, too.

I can guarantee that ants don’t attempt to eat something as big as a live human. Red ants will fasten their mandibles on you and give it a good try, though. Ouch.