What Do Ants Eat?

Updated February 21, 2017

The answer to the question what do ants eat is a simple one--they will eat almost anything. They are omnivorous, meaning that animals and vegetables are in their diet. Ants are particular fond of sugars and also need water to survive. Here is a look at what ants eat and some of their dietary habits.


Ants are as successful a species as they are because they have the ability to make a meal of many different types of things. They can eat plants, turning the plant matter into energy or they can eat meat. Different species of ants prefer different types of food. Some eat other insects and dead animals that they come across, while others eat sugar, fruits, seeds, oils, vegetables and other sources of proteins.


Ants will utilise scouts to locate food and then lay down a trail for the rest to follow back to it. They accomplish this by using chemicals called pheromones, which they lay down after finding something to eat. They will eat what they find and then head back to the colony where the pheromones will cause the other ants to get worked up and leave to follow the trail back to the source. They will use their antennae in the air and locate the trail, eventually establishing a path that the rest of the colony can easily follow. The ants need to do this quickly before ants from other colonies discover the food.


Fire ants are an ant species that is found all over the world. They will eat just about anything, but mostly dine on other insects. The workers will sting other insects to death and then rip them up into small pieces and deliver them back to the colony. They have been observed attacking small animals such as mice, which they sting to death. The bite of a fire ant is very painful for humans. Their nests are usually easy to spot, as nothing grows near them.


Several species of ants will eat what is known as honeydew. This is a sugary waste excretion that comes from insects that eat sap; aphids, leafhoppers and treehoppers are a few species of insects that do this. Ants actually provide protection for aphids from other insect predators in exchange for this honeydew meal.


A common misconception is that the species of ants known as carpenter ants eat only wood. However, they feed on honeydew and sugars, using wood only to live in. They cannot digest the cellulose in wood products, but will make their homes in soft wood by excavating small chambers in it to raise their young.

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About the Author

John Lindell has written articles for "The Greyhound Review" and various other online publications. A Connecticut native, his work specializes in sports, fishing and nature. Lindell worked in greyhound racing for 25 years.