What do the ants eat?
If we stop to observe what an anthill is surrounded by, we will notice a frenetic activity: the worker ants are dedicated tirelessly to fetch and bring food that they will then store … but what do the ants eat?
Ants are among the most present insects in the world. Their ability to adapt to a varied diet, depending on the environment and the time of year, was crucial for their survival and spread.
Below we will analyze the feeding of ants and why this way of feeding has favored the adaptability of these animals.
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Feeding the ants
Responding to what ants eat is not easy, as they are a very diverse group of animals. The feeding of ants is based on different types of food depending on the species and the place where they live. So let’s take a look at some types of ants based on their diet. Are the following:
- Granivorous ants
- Predatory ants
- Farm ants
- Ants grazing
- Mutualism ants
What do granivorous ants eat?
Granivorous ants are those that feed on seeds. They collect large quantities of this food and carry it over long distances to their nest. Once there, they store the seeds in their barn and protect them from fungi.
All of these ants are essential for seed dispersal, as much of the seeds they bury will sprout and become plants. Many species of the genera Messer and Gonium, among others, are involved in this important work.
Feeding of predatory ants
Many ants are predators, that is, they hunt for insects or other arthropods. Some may even hunt larger animals, such as lizards or small mice.
Because of their dangerousness, they often feature the red color as a warning sign for potential predators, which is known as aposematic. So, if you are wondering what do the red ants eat, here is the answer.
A good example of carnivorous ants is the subfamilies Ecitoninae and Dorylinae, known as soldier or legionary ants. These insects form nomadic groups that are constantly moving. In their wake, they hunt small animals they encounter. However, they usually alternate their travels with sedentary phases in which the queen lays large quantities of eggs.
What do farm ants eat?
Many ant species are mushroom growers. They are dedicated to the collection of different types of organic matter, especially leaves.
Feeding the ants that graze
Many ants graze other arthropods of the homopterous order, such as aphids. They gather them in groups and defend them from predators in exchange for food: honey drops. These are sugary substances coming from the sap of plants that the aphids excrete through the anus.
Some ants, such as Camponotus inflates, collect leaves full of honey drops and carry them to the anthill. There, the ants in charge use them to feed other very special workers. They are the honey pot ants, whose abdomen are stretched out and become a kind of jar that fills with honey. This food will be a food reserve for the entire colony.
Feeding mutualistic ants
Finally, to answer what ants eat, we cannot forget the mutualism ants. These are insects that live inside the bark of some plants, such as acacias (Acacia spp.). These provide them with food and shelter in exchange for defense from herbivorous animals. This is a function that the species of the genus Pseudomyrmex perform very well.
Among the foods that plants provide to ants are the “belting bodies”, small red balls that appear at the ends of the leaves. In addition, these plants secrete nutritious nectar through their leaves.
What foods make up the diet of ants?
The ant is an omnivorous animal that usually maintains a very varied diet: it can consume almost everything it finds around it. In addition to capturing prey available in their environment, ants can collect leaves, grass, seeds, pieces of fruit and vegetables, grains, mushrooms and even carrion.
Some species of ants have the habit of hunting in large groups: they carry out collective attacks that allow them to hunt prey larger than their own. Other poisonous species use their toxin to immobilize their prey, which they then break up in order to carry the meat into the anthill.
The types of food that ants eat will therefore depend on the species they belong to, the habitat in which they live and the time of year. Species that live in cold environments, with harsh winters, usually cram a good amount of food into the anthill, in view of the lean period.
This adaptability to such a varied diet was key to the worldwide expansion of ants. These insects have adapted to virtually any ecosystem and microclimate. It is, in fact, one of the most resistant animals in nature.
Furthermore, their omnivorous and versatile diet has allowed these insects to adapt optimally to human intervention in their habitat. They build their anthills near or inside the buildings, so that they can draw on an abundant and continuous availability of food; not surprisingly, they collect the residues of human nutrition.
The society and what do ants eat?
One of the most fascinating facts about ant is their society. It is the most complex type of social organization in the entire animal kingdom and is based on the recognition of caste.
Nowadays, society is observed only in some insects (bees, wasps and ants), in a few species of crustaceans and in the hairless mole.
To survive, the ants must build their refuge, popularly known as an anthill. Within each anthill, a society divided into three castes is formed: the queen ant, the soldier ants and the worker ants.
- The queen is the great mother and leader of all individuals living in the anthill. It’s main and most noble, a function is to transmit its genetic material to ensure the survival of its species.
- The soldier ants have the task of protecting and defending the community from predators or enemies who want to attack the anthill.
- The worker ants carry out the basic works for the preservation of the community. One of their most important functions is the collection of food for all members of the anthill, including the queen. Not only are they responsible for transporting and procuring food, but the worker ants are also responsible for maintaining the anthill and raising the larvae.