Ants are known for being opportunistic hunters that will eat almost any source of food that they can access. But does this method of foraging apply to the deceased bodies of fellow ants?
No, it is unlikely that ants will eat dead ants. Ants will actually remove dead ants from a nest and take them to a dumping area to keep the corpses away from their queen.
Do Ants Eat Other Ants?
Ants will sometimes fight with one another. But will ants eat dead another? It is very rare for them to kill one another for food.
Certain ants will fight and kill other species of ants, but this is not commonplace for ants of the same colony or species.
However, they will eat the bodies of deceased ants for sustenance. This is because there is no energy required for them to actually hunt or forage. The food is already prepared, and in the minds of an ant, it seems like wasted resources if they do not consume it.
What do Ants do with Dead Ants?
Ants are actually very clever animals, and if an ant dies inside the nest, they will remove it. This is so that their queen does not get contaminated by the presence of a corpse.
Some species of ants actually have a dumping area or burial ground close by to their nests. They can do this because deceased ants release a chemical that informs other ants that they have died and that their body needs to be removed from the area.
Of course, there are ants that consume the corpses of their fellow companions.
Cannibalism is rare in the animal kingdom and is usually only done if there are food issues. If resources are short for ants, then they will eat the bodies of other ants to help sustain the colony and to keep it alive.
Why Do Ants Carry Off Dead Ants?
Ants like to keep things tidy. So, if they find some of their group have died then they will carry the dead to a waste ground referred to as a midden. It is where they dispose of any rubbish but this will also include other dead ants.
The main reason for doing so is to protect their home (and their queen) from any contamination.
Ants release oleic acid when they die which is essentially a signal to other ants that they have now become waste material and need to be disposed of.
What Else do Ants Eat?
Ants do not solely subside on the bodies of deceased ants. They will eat practically anything, but they appear to have preferences for a certain type of food.
The list below gives you just a few examples of what makes up an ant’s diet and what appears to be their favourite kinds of food.
Honeydew is a sweet substance that is produced by aphids. It is very high in sugar and therefore beloved by ants.
If there is a colony of aphids close to an ant nest, the ants will help protect the aphids from predators so that they can have access to a sustainable food source.
In exchange, the aphids will let the ants milk them for their honeydew, which is done by an ant stroking an aphid’s back.
Ants are predators and will hunt for insects if they are running short on food. They seem to prefer to not consume insects, but they will if it is necessary.
Much like how they consume their own dead, if necessary. Ants will often fight with predators of aphids like ladybugs to protect them. And as an extra reward, they will often eat the insects which they have defeated in a fight.
Ants are often found in houses because they will consume human food that has been dropped or discarded. They particularly like sugary foods and will often work together to drag bits of dropped food back to their nests.
As mentioned earlier, ants are not particularly fussy eaters, and they will eat much more than just what is on the list above. But these appear to be their favourite and most commonly consumed types of food.
Ants will eat their dead if food is short.
Many ants have a burial site for dead ants so that they can be removed from the nest. Certain species of ants will attack and eat other species of neighbouring ants.
Other things that ants will eat include honeydew, other insect species and discarded human food. The main predators of ants that you will find in your garden are spiders and songbirds.