What Do Ants Eat?

Image by: ryaninc / License: CC BY 2.0

At least once in your life you’ve dropped a biscuit crumb on the street and just in minutes a bunch of ants attacked it. 

It looks like ants can consume almost anything they spot and your kitchen can be very attractive. So, if you are curious to understand why ants are in your house, what ants like to eat and what else attracts them to your property, read this article which will give you the answers.

Ants Diet

First things first, so let’s take a look at the ants anatomy and what they need for their living. 

Ants are equipped with the so-called mandibles (jaws). They are used for cutting, holding, digging, hunting, food processing. They help ants to lift any food crumbs left and salivate it so that they can easily consume it. 

Furthermore, ants have antennae which are one of the most important parts of their body. Thanks to the antennae, ants can smell, touch, feel any object and support them to find food sources and communicate with each other. 

Worker ants, the ones we can mostly see, have two stomachs. The first one is called mesosoma and has the function of storage where ants keep the food and when they come back to the nest, they will vomit the food to feed the rest of the colony. The second stomach is known as rostrum and is where the liquid food goes and provides the ant with nutrients. Speaking of which, adults need more carbohydrates so that they can be energetic. This is why you mostly spot ants on sweet things like nectar. On the other hand, younger ants need more protein from dead insects, for example, which adults bring to the nest. 

Ants eat a variety of things for different purposes. Anyway, after you know how ants provide their food, it’s time to outline what is the most preferred type of ant food:

Sugary foods

Ants can get sugar from many sources. Usually, they get it from the flower nectar or extract the honeydew from the aphids. The nectar contains two types of sugars, glucose and fructose which ants really like.

Of course, ants can be seen eating different types of fruit such as oranges, strawberries, bananas etc. If you spill a drop from your jam and don’t wipe it, keep in mind that ants can sense it from a long distance and come to your kitchen immediately.

Plants, seeds, grains

Certain types of ants are vegan. They look for seeds, grains, plants, leaves and other greenery. They even grow fungus out of the leaves. The leaf-cutter ants are known for the ability to be gardeners. They cut sections of leaves, flowers or grass, take it to their nests and don’t eat it. Instead, these ants clear the garbage and decay. Leaves act as a fertilizer to grow fungus which ants larvae feed on.

Other Insects

Like people, there are meat lovers among ants. Such are the fire ants which are omnivorous and can feed on meat, plants and sugary food. They love greasy food and insects or worms can provide it. Fire ants can eat dead animals, as well. They can eat spiders, ticks, even birds and rodents.

Ants eating ants

Believe it or not, ants can be cannibalistic. Army ants are known for invading the nests of other ants where they look for eggs and young ants to eat. In other cases, when the queen is endangered from lacking food sources, she can eat her offspring.

What Attracts Ants to Your House Besides Food?

Water

As any other insect, rodent or other creature, ants need water. For that reason, they will search for water in order to build their nest. If your garden experiences drought, the colony will head to your property to search for accessible water.

So, the most common places ants can hang around are your kitchen or bathroom sink where any standing water can be formed.

Nesting places

Usually, ants build their nests underground where it’s safe and offers perfect conditions for settling their colony down. Anyway, some might be nesting behind or under your appliances, wall cavities, under floor boards or behind wallpapers.

Pesticides usage

Sometimes when you apply certain types of pesticides in your garden, it can repel ants. Then, the whole colony will move to your house where no chemicals threaten them.

Plants as a connection

Ants can use some plants, trees or bushes as a connection from the garden to your house. For example, there might be a branch very close to the kitchen window. Ants will use it to easily get to your home.

Salt

Yes, salt can be another attractive source. There is a study which explains that ants living far from sea or ocean tend to search for salt as they have less access than ants that live close by the seaside.

Light

Scientifically, there’s no evidence of correlation between ants and light. Anyway, people share they see flying ants fluttering around and heading to a certain light source. Usually, these ants (called alates) are a reproductive caste which function is to reproduce. So, if you spot them most probably it’s their mating period and the smaller ants are the males while the bigger ones are the queens.

Urine

Yes, urine can be very attractive to ants but in certain cases. There is an ancient observation by physicians in India that found the urine from people with diabetes attracts ants. But why? People with this condition have elevated blood sugar which gets into the urine.

How Do Ants Get in the House?

Ants are so tiny that they can peek through anything. The most common entry points they can use to your house are:

  • Wall cracks: there are always some very small cracks in the walls that you cannot notice with bare eye. For example, when you make a hole for a cable to pass through, it is enough for ants to use it as an entrance to the house.
  • Windows, doors: obviously these are very common entry points. If you leave them open, don’t be surprised why ants are in your house.
  • Gaps in the foundation: during the construction there might be very small gaps left from where ants will easily find their way to your kitchen.
  • Floor: certain types of ants can burrow into wooden materials where they create routes.
  • Plants: sometimes when you bring plants inside your house, you might’ve brought ants, as well. They usually hide under leaves so they get out of your sight.

How to Get Rid of Ants in the House

Before the ants infestation is out of control, you have to immediately deal with the insects.

You can start with some natural remedies before using insecticides:

  • Boric Acid: it destroys the ant's exoskeleton and internal organs.
  • White vinegar: it’s powerful, can kill ants immediately and can repel them, as well.
  • Lemons: work as a deterrent but cannot kill the ants.
  • Essential oils: some well-known and useful oils are peppermint, tea tree or citrus oil. They are very effective after you’ve treated an infestation and you keep finding lone ants or small clusters of them.

If nothing helps, you can try some powerful insecticides. One of the most effective options that are available over-the-counter are ant gels and powdered poison.

If you want to learn more about the natural ant removal recipes and the commercial insecticides, you can read our dedicated article on how to get rid of ants in your house.

Anyway, applying toxic insecticide on your own can be very dangerous for you and for the whole family. For that reason, professional ant treatment is highly recommended as the experts have the appropriate knowledge, experience and a complete treatment solution which is less painful and more effective.

Conclusion

Ants can eat almost anything from sweet fruit, meat, plants to self-eating. There are different types of ants which have their own diet but whatever it is, you will most certainly be invaded by them to some point.

If you want to minimize the chance of making your home attractive shelter to the small crawlers, stick to the following tips:

  • Maintain high hygiene at home: clean regularly with a hover, don’t leave food unpacked on the table or countertop. If you drop food crumbs, always sweep them.
  • Trim trees and bushes: maintain your garden so that ants won’t use the branches of the trees as a trail to your property.
  • Remove dead insects: if you’ve noticed any dead insects somewhere in your home, make sure you get rid of them, as ants might sense them and find their way to the victim.
  • Repair any leakages: check if you have any water leakages and make sure you stop them so that standing water won’t form. Make sure you mop your bathroom regularly. Wipe the countertop where water drops often occur.

Get your home inspected by a certified pest technician!

Book inspection

Disclaimer

We distribute educational information according to the experience and professional knowledge of the pest technicians. However, we don't provide any medical advice.

Read more