Finding natural predators for ants is often an easy and clever way to deal with an ant infestation without using annoying pesticides and other chemical solutions. Of course, there is a lot to consider before doing something like this because you don’t want to have to look for predators for the ant predators later on. But, nevertheless, this is an ingenious and often effective solution to an ant problem. Especially when it comes to some of the more annoying or even dangerous types like fire ants, finding natural fire ant predators can be a great win for a farmer or a homeowner.
IPM, or Integrated Pest Management, is a well-known and long-used strategy for dealing with insect pests, in particular, as chemical solutions are often either impractical or have too many unwanted side effects. Using an IPM strategy for unwelcome ant species such as carpenter ants, fire ants or any other is often worth considering.
What are the most common natural ant predators?
There are lots of animals, birds, lizards and other insects that eat ants – much more than we can list in a quick article. Fortunately, for the purpose of this article, we don’t need to list all of them as not all can be practically put to use on a property or a garden. Still, even some of the more obscure choices are worth mentioning, so here’s a quick list:
- Many are not aware but some spiders eat ants. There are over 15 species of spiders that love to feed on most ants and many others that are in direct competition with them. Black Widow spiders, Jumping spiders, Lynx spiders, and several other species specialize in hunting and killing ants. Most spiders avoid these insects, however, as they find them to be too much trouble to be worth it.
- Phorid flies. There are other flying insects that prey on ants but Phorid flies deserve a separate mention as they specialize in killing fire ants. What’s more, they even go a step further by laying their larvae in the bodies of fire ants and their larvae then eat their way out of the ant. Unsurprisingly, Phorid flies are often used as a natural pest control against fire ants.
- Antlions / Doodlebugs. Antlions are another flying insect that loves to feast almost exclusively on ants (hence, the name). Larvae antlions are called Doodlebugs because of the doodles they leave on the sand when they dig their pits in which they hide and trap ants. Adult antlions resemble dragonflies but have shorter antennae. They are nocturnal so you’ll rarely encounter them out in the open during the day.
- Other ants. One of the biggest enemies of ants are other ants, similarly to us. Different ant species and colonies are always in competition with one another and rarely miss a chance to harass, raid, kill or even enslave one another. Of course, if you’re looking for an ant predator to rid you of an ant infestation, it doesn’t make much sense to replace one ant colony with another. Still, it was worth a mention. There are even parasitic ants such as the Solenopsis daguerrei, whose queens move from nest to nest, sterilize and incapacitate other queens, steal their food, and lay their own eggs, which, when mature, move to destroy other colonies.
- Paussinae beetles. This type of “bombardier” beetles spray defensive chemicals from their abdomens and tend to feed on young ants.
- Oogpister beetles. Similarly to the Paussinae, Oogpisters love to eat ants and are even more aggressive when it comes to storming ant nests and wreaking havoc in them.
- Liphyra caterpillars. These butterfly larvae have evolved shells that are completely impenetrable to even the strongest ant jaws and also have quite the insatiable appetite for young ants.
- Blue Butterfly caterpillars have quite a different approach. These caterpillars mimic the sounds and scent of ant queens and trick colonies to feed them and to take care of them instead of their own queens. They often even feed on the offspring of the actual ant queens. With these tactics, they are capable of quickly depleting entire ant colonies of their resources.
- Eucharitid wasps. This wasp species leaves its larvae on plants near ant colonies. From there, the larvae attach to passing ants, gets into their nests, and feed on the ant brood there. You might not want too large of a number of wasps flying around your property, however.
- Ant-eating birds such as Nuthatches and Chickadees. There are lots of common backyard birds that are welcomed to gardens for their pest control capabilities. Most such birds will feed on beetles, snails, grasshoppers, aphids, flies, moths, and other insects, including ants. Just install several birdfeeders and water bowls in your yard and wait for the flying exterminators to come around.
- Many species of lizards such as Geckoes, for example, love to feast on ants. If you don’t mind these small reptiles running around your yard, they can make for great ant-control weapons.
As for the famous anteater animal, the reason we didn’t include it on the list is that anteaters actually prefer to eat termites instead of ants. As termites belong to the cockroach family, it didn’t make enough sense to include anteaters here.
Dealing with an ant infestation is often an annoying affair as is ant prevention. Utilizing ants’ natural predators as Integrated Pest Management is sometimes a smart way to go about it, however, not all natural ant predators are a good choice because some of them can be a nuisance in and of themselves.
Still, considering that control and prevention are best done together, as well as that natural solutions are almost always preferable to pesticides when all else is equal, it’s worth considering some of the ant predators on this list.