Ants are omnivorous insects, and as such, they feed on a wide range of things, from plants to animals. Ants will eat a worm if they find a freshly deceased one lying around.
However, there are predator ants that will attack and devour worms without hesitation. These predator ants include fire ants, army ants, and carpenter ants.
Both ants and earthworms are yard creatures and generally live in similar places. The diet of an earthworm consists of microbes and decaying matter, which ants feed on as well. Typically, ants are harmless to worms, and they can be found co-existing peacefully.
Often, ants make their way to worm compost pits seeking the vegetable and fruit scraps set for worms. This is the most harm most ants inflict on worms. However, if the predatory ants make it to the compost pits, worms are in actual danger.
Which Ant Species Eat Worms?
Most ant species do not eat worms- at least not when the worms are alive. The ant species that eat worms are carpenter ants, army ants, and fire ants.
Also known as wood ants, carpenter ants are predatory ants that feed on small insects and sometimes other ant species. Wood ants got their name from building nests on decaying wood and chewing on it until it is completely ruined.
These ants attack and feed on different types of worms, so it is wise to keep them away from a worm compost pit. When they spot worms, these ants attack, paralyze and break down their prey into smaller pieces that they carry back to their nests.
The only time worms are safe from these ants is during winter, when ants hibernate due to cold temperatures. During this time, carpenter ants rely on foods that they had stored to survive winter.
Army ants are some of the scariest ants in the wild. They have large-toothed jaws with which they devour much bigger animals than them, such as reptiles, frogs, small birds, and ultimately, worms. Furthermore, these ants are cannibalistic as they are known to specialize in eating other ant species.
In an article by Live Science, army ants were witnessed attacking and eating a worm that was 16 inches long. According to the scientist who observed the whole ordeal, Sean O’Donnell, hundreds of raiding army ants pursued the giant worm and quickly paralyzed it, after which they fed on it.
Army ants are nomadic in nature, meaning they are always on the move. They only settle temporarily when they find a good spot with adequate food to sustain the colony. Sometimes, this spot is a worm compost pit.
Fire ants normally feed on plants. However, they do not shy away from devouring small insects and worms when the opportunity presents itself. While foraging for food, fire ants bump into worm compost pits that contain food scraps that could feed their colonies. While their main objective is the vegetable scraps, fire ants could attack and kill some worms as well.
Additionally, fire ants are well-adapted to kill and feed on small animals. They have very strong mandibles that enable them to bite and paralyze their prey. Also, they have a venomous stinger at the rear end of their abdomen, which assists in the paralysis process.
How Do Ants Kill Worms?
Predatory ants have mechanisms that enable them to successfully attack and devour animals that are bigger than them, such as worms. For one, predatory ants have strong and powerful mandibles to bite and hold in place the worm.
They then release a toxic venom into the prey’s body, which paralyzes the prey, thus immobilizing it. Since a worm is several times bigger than ants, the predators can’t possibly carry it back to the colony whole. Therefore, ants cut down the worm into manageable pieces, and all the worker ants assist in transporting the food back to their nests.
How Can You Protect Worms from Predatory Ants?
If you own a worm compost pit, ants are likely to be regular sightings. This is because ants forage for food randomly and invade any place where they can find food, such as worm compost pits.
Not only will the ants eat the food meant for worms, but predator ants will also attack and feed on the worms themselves. Therefore, it is wise to protect the worms from predatory ants using the following methods:
Diatomaceous Earth– Spreading diatomaceous earth around the worm pits will restrict the accessibility of ants to the pits. This is because diatomaceous earth is capable of killing ants and, therefore, acts as a repellent to keep ants away.
This substance is a chalk-like powder that is derived from the shells of ancient marine algae known as a diatom. The shells contain silica, which is known to be an effective insecticide. Thus, if it comes into contact with an ant, the diatomaceous earth will absorb the ant’s moisture and eventually dehydrate the ant to death.
Water– Ants are afraid of water because they are not good swimmers. When trapped in water, they will drown after a few hours. Therefore, surrounding the worm compost pit with water is a simple method of keeping ants at bay.
Sticky Coating– Applying a coat of a sticky substance will undermine ants’ attempts to enter the worm bins. This sticky substance could be petroleum jelly or tanglefoot. Apply it to the sides of the bins so that ants get stuck as they are traveling up.
This method is safe as jelly is free of chemicals that could harm the worms. Since the stickiness will keep wearing off, it is advisable to re-apply periodically.
- Do Ants Eat Insects?
- Do Ants Eat Plants, Grass, and Leaves?
- Do Ants Eat Termites?
- Do Carpenter Ants Eat Wood?
While most ant species do not eat worms, there are predatory species that do. These include army ants, fire ants, and carpenter ants. These predatory ants have adaptations that enable them to prey on small animals such as worms. For instance, they have strong mandibles to hold the prey and produce venom with which to paralyze the prey.
There are various methods of keeping predatory ants away from worm compost pits: water, pesticides, and sticky substances.
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.