Ants are fascinating little creatures! Did you know that an ant can carry up to 20 times its own body weight? So, when you see an ant carry food, just remember that if it was you instead of that ant, you’d be carrying something of an average weight of 4,000 pounds. Isn’t that incredible?

But, what makes ants so strong? Of course, part of their strength comes from nutrition; without it, they’d be weak and probably die, just like any other living being on this incredible planet of ours.

So, we couldn’t help but wonder; what do ants like to eat? In the following paragraphs, we’ll take a look at the diet preferences of ants and see what they like to eat, outside in nature, and inside of your own home. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

The Diet of Ants

The Diet of Ants
Coachella Valley Preserve

What Do They Eat?

Let’s start with the obvious statement; ants are omnivorous. This means they can and will eat anything they find. Whether big or small, fruit or meat, living or dead, if it’s available and within their reach, ants will eat it. Because of their diverse diet, ants don’t really experience issues with finding food. They are simply incredible when it comes to finding food, storing it, and distributing it across a colony of millions of other ants.

However, despite the fact that ants eat everything, they still do have a specific diet. Their feeding habits can be identified as being willing to eat decaying or dead sources of protein. They can digest almost anything, but protein provides the much-needed energy that allows the ants to carry on their lives as ‘workers’, carrying around items and food 20 times their own body weight.

So, which food do ants prefer?

Worker ants will always indulge in sugary sources of nutrition. Overripe fruits and withering plants are welcome to be on the menu, but ants won’t shy away from eating other dead insects and parts of dead animals.

Nevertheless, the most important substance in an ant’s life is a liquid called honeydew. Now, this liquid is mainly produced by aphids and scale insects as a result of a plant-based diet. This liquid is essential to ants because it is used to feed the larvae so they can grow up and join the ant colony.

Do Different Ant Species Eat Different Food?

Generally speaking, all ants want the same; proteins and sugar. These are essential to their nutrition, growth, and strength. However, the source of sugar and proteins differs from one ant species to the other. For example;

  • Carpenter ants – now, these ants are believed to be consumers of wood. However, they enjoy sugary foods, fruits, dead or living insects, and even pet or cat food. The wood, well, they remove it to create tunnels for their ant buddies that lead to the nest. So, if you see a carpenter ant carrying a small piece of wood, it is not because the ant is hungry.
  • Fire ants – now, these are outside ants specifically. The reason they don’t like staying indoors lies in dietary preferences. Fire ants like to eat meats, dead insects (including spiders, ticks, worms), and of course, fruits, plants, seeds, and the ever-beloved honeydew.
  • Leafcutter ants – despite their name, these ants don’t eat leaves. However, they do use leaves for growing fungus in their nests. Now, the fungus secretes enzymes that ants later eat. This is their main food preference, which is completely different from the other ant species.
  • Odorous House ants – these ants simply love their honeydew. Sugar and proteins are their main food preferences, but they will also indulge in some bread crumbs. Their diet mainly consists of dead insects, sugary fruits, and generally sweet food.
  • Argentine ants – these ants love to eat meat. They are known to invade new areas and eat the native ants and other insects, like spiders and flies. However, Argentine ants don’t shy away from eating sugary foods and, of course, honeydew.

Other species of ants, like Pavement, Crazy, or Ghost ants all share the same dietary interests as other ants species. Generally, they enjoy the sugar and proteins they get from meat, greasy food, honeydew, dead insects, fruits, etc They tend to invade homes and feed off from the food they find on the floor or around the kitchen. Pest control is essential in the case of Ghost ants since they tend to nest inside the home.

How Do They Find The Food?

Ants go out into the world with one task; to find food! Now, how they do this consists of multiple other tasks. First of all, ants need to successfully identify food. Once they do that, they have to return to the ‘headquarters’ of the colony and in the process leave a chemical trail that leads other worker ants back to the located and identified food.

The worker ants follow the chemicals left by the first ant, called pheromones. These are used not only to lead ants back to the source of food but also to mark their territory and identify them as a colony. Upon arrival at the source, the worker ants pick up the food and carry it back to the nest. Ants pick up the chemicals or the pheromones via small bristles on their bodies. These bristles act as receptors that easily detect all sorts of different chemicals, including sugar, proteins, fats, and pheromones.

From that established trail, the worker ants expand their search for other sources of food, creating a whole web of pheromone-induced trails for other worker ants to use. So, if you ever see a colony of ants, marching one after the other, carrying food, know that you’re witnessing an exceptional feeding behavior established by such small, incredible creatures.

Overall, we can say that ants are truly opportunistic insects. They will eat whatever they come across, accumulate and store the food and ensure everyone in the colony know where the food was found. It is truly an incredible system or a web of the never-ending search for and storing of necessary foods.

What Do Ants Eat In our Homes?

Ants will go out of their way to find food even in most of the unusual places. However, what they seemed to be attracted to the most are our homes. Well, why wouldn’t they be? Our homes are the perfect sources of food. Even the trash bins in our homes are perfect for ants; rotting food of all kinds, all in one place.

Now, when we speak specifically about the food ants prefer indoors, we’d start with plants and dead insects in the house. Potted plants are a great source of different minerals, vitamins, and chemical liquids ants require for survival. Dead insects, like bed bugs, for example, make an excellent treat for ants too.

Now, we can’t continue without mentioning the kitchen. Now, here is where the ants win the food jackpot. Everything they find in the kitchen is a potential food source. Bread crumbs, fruits, veggies, spilled juice, even the food in the refrigerator can be a good enough reason for ants to form colonies and march right into your kitchen.

If you don’t want to have ants in your kitchen or home, make sure to always tightly seal your food; use boxes or seal bags to store food. Also, make sure that the kitchen is dry; what we mean by this is that ants are attracted to moisture. So, kitchen sinks, bathrooms, even washers, and heaters attract ants. Therefore, it is essential to dry kitchen counters and always wipe excess water.

Final Thoughts

Being omnivorous, ants will eat anything they find. It is amazing to learn that such small creatures will eat anything, from fruits and plants to dead insects or even other ants. However, sugar and proteins are necessary for their development, growth, survival, and strength, so it is no wonder they aren’t really picky about their lunch and dinner. Hopefully, this was an interesting article and an overall interesting insight into the dietary preferences of ants.

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