Not all ant species eat termites, but most do. Omnivorous in nature, ants eat a wide variety of things from vegetables, to honeydew, to insects- both living and dead. They feed on termites whenever they get the opportunity.
Carpenter ants are the ants that most commonly attack and eat termites. This is because carpenter ants are the main rivals of termites, as they both live in wood. Furthermore, the Megaponera analis ant species, otherwise known as the Matabele ants of Sub-Saharan Africa, feed exclusively on termites.
Ants and termites are natural enemies.
For starters, they have similar features, and if you’re not careful, you might mistake one for the other. The two insects also tend to live in similar environments and have similar systems of living. For instance, they both have a queen in their colonies whose duty is to lay eggs and ensure the continuity of the colony.
Furthermore, both have worker ants who go foraging for food for the nest and provide the colony with protection from danger. It is because of these similar interests that ants and termites are sworn enemies.
Their rivalry has led to a predator-prey relationship, where ants are the predators and termites are the prey.
Why Do Ants Eat Termites?
Ants eat anything that has nutritious value to them. Thus, they eat foods that provide them with carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, fats, and proteins. Termites are insects with high protein content and, therefore, have a high nutritional value to ants.
Termites are full of proteins because they consume a lot of softwood. On top of that, these insects are fleshy and soft, which is another reason ants favor them as food sources. It’s important to note that ants are not the only predators of termites, but they are definitely the most aggressive.
The other main reason why ants eat termites is that they are territorial enemies. As aforementioned, ants and termites live in similar habitats and have to compete for resources. For this reason, the two insects engage in wars often to compete for dominance in these territories.
Since ants are bigger and feistier, they kill more termites than termites kill ants. Most termites manage to escape, a skill that they have perfected as an adaptation for their survival against predators. After a war, ants carry the dead termites back to their nests and feed on them.
Related: Do Carpenter Ants Eat Wood?
How Do Ants Kill Termites?
Ants usually crawl through termite mounds to attack the termites in their own territories. However, it is not easy for ants to penetrate these mounds. This is because termite mounds are quite sturdy as termites make their nests using mud and saliva.
Therefore, ants will invade termite mounds only when the nests break down and become loose, giving the ants easy and direct access to the termites. Normally, the mounds break due to actions by third parties such as birds or accidental bumps by dogs and humans. When the termites are exposed like this, ants detect their odor, and that’s when the ants charge and attack.
Fortunately, termites who are master escapers know how to get away in good time. During the retreat, a few termites are surrendered to the ants in a bid to buy time and save the rest of the colony. Behind the attack lines, worker termites put up an impenetrable mud wall to keep the rest of the colony safe.
If many termites die during the attack, the queen termite lays eggs to replace the numbers lost. Interestingly, ants do not chase after the termites that have gotten away.
After they have had their fill, ants will go their way to look for other types of food as termites are not the only thing they feed on. Apart from the Matabele ants, ants do not actively look for termites to kill and eat. They attack only when the opportunity presents itself.
Related: Do Flying Ants Bite?
Do Ants Eat Termite Larvae?
Termite larvae have tasty and protein-rich flesh, which makes for a great meal for ants. So yes- ants eat termite larvae. In most cases, the larvae are used by termite colonies to provide security for their nests from invasions by ants and other termite predators. Thus, the larvae are usually stationed at the front of the nests.
For this reason, they are easily accessible during attacks. So, ants will feed on the larvae before proceeding to the rest of the colony.
Can Ants Keep Termites Away from your Home?
Ants are the biggest predators of termites. Thus, they are capable of pushing them from an area.
If this area is a garden and the presence of ants does not have a direct consequence on you or your plants, then ants would be an effective choice of getting rid of termites. The other option would be spraying pesticides that may contain harmful chemicals.
However, if the termites are in your home, it would be a bad idea to introduce ants. This is because ants are pests just as much as termites are, and having them both in your house is akin to doubling the trouble.
Furthermore, ants do not wipe out entire termite colonies because, as we have already established in the article, termites possess superb escaping skills. Secondly, ants stop feeding on termites when they are satisfied, not when they have cleared the whole colony. So, there is no telling whether the ants will successfully clear termites from the premises.
Since they will be having other sources of nutrition in the house, ants may not pay enough attention to the termites. Therefore, it would much wiser to use other methods of termite termination, or better yet, contact a professional exterminator to help.
- Do Ants Eat Insects?
- Do Ants Eat Worms?
- Do Ants Eat Plants, Grass, and Leaves?
- Do Ants Eat Termites?
Although not all ant species eat termites, most do. Ants are omnivorous insects and feed on animal matter just as much as they eat plant matter. Among the ants that feed on termites, the most are carpenter ants that live on wood and the Megaponera analis ants that feed exclusively on termites.
There are two main reasons why ants feed on termites. One, the two insects are territorial enemies. Secondly, termites are protein-rich, making them very nutritious for ants. Ants eat termites during territorial wars and when the former attack the latter in their nests.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.