What Do Ants Eat?

What Do Ants eat?
What Do Ants Eat?

“What do ants eat”, you ask?    Ants eat everything.  With a side of anything.  And nothing leftover.  Have you ever looked up “omnivore” in the dictionary?  If so, you’ll find, most unfortunately, that a picture of an ant does NOT in fact show up.  Not even close, actually.

However, we here at fightbugs.com would not object if a picture of an ant did accompany the definition of omnivore in a standard dictionary.  Why? Because we have asked ourselves that same not-so proverbial question of “What do Ants Eat” and we have come to discover that they eat just about anything.  Attempting to address that could potentially make for a horrendously long article or a stupidly short one.  We’re going to shoot for a happy, somewhere in the middle.

In order to do this we need to narrow our focus, which will in turn hopefully make this article a tinge more readable and meaningful to you, the meaningful reader.  We’re not going to enumerate what every type of ant (and there’s actually a lot), prefers to dine on (which includes fellow insects both living and dead).  No, we are going to key in on one a type of ant that actually includes many different types…the common household ant.  And we’re going to draw our attention to…two common food bases that will invariably attract common household ants to your common (or not so common) household.  Then, we’ll discuss what you can do about it.

2 Common Food Bases that, if left out, Will Attract Ants:

#2  Grease–And by “grease” we mean any kind of grease involved with cooking…bacon grease, butter grease, greasy grease.  This also includes cooking oils such as peanut oil, olive oil and vegetable oil.  There is actually a specie of ant that has been dubbed the “grease ant” though it is actually called the “thief ant”.  The greasy thief ant can be found just about anywhere in the U.S. and is a particularly small ant. They are smooth and shiny and may be yellow to light or dark brown.  Though they will eat almost anything, thief ants prefer to eat grease, fats and meats.  Thief ants form a trail from the food to the nest and the moving columns of ants can be located pretty easily with semi-careful inspection.  The Iowa State Department of Etymology provides a website with more information (including pictures ) of this fats loving ant.  Click Here if you’d like to go there.

#1 Sugary Liquids–One thing that is interesting to note about adult ants is that they are more often attracted to sugary solutions rather than sugar itself; adult worker ants often have difficulty swallowing something that is not in liquid form. It is more common to see ants attracted to sugary foods rather than a plain bag of sugar.

What does this mean for you?

Don’t leave that “empty” carton of ice-cream out on the counter.  In fact, rinse it out before you throw it in the trash.

The same thing goes for your Popsicle wrapper.  And clean up those spilled soft drinks promptly!  The most common type of household ant to feed primarily on sugary solutions is what is known as the Pharaoh ant.  To learn more about the pharaoh ant from the good people at Texas A&M University, click here.

What Can You Do To Discourage Ants from Entering your Home?

Are ants having a picnic in your house? Here are some tips to help keep them out, and what to do if they begin marching two by two:

1. Clean up after yourself!  As ants are attracted to sweets, sugar, grease, protein, and even moisture, it is important to wipe up spills promptly.  Vacuum or sweep after snack time and parties, and keep those sinks and counters clean and dry! Don’t forget to clean under counter-top appliances, too.  Take the trash out daily and keep the garbage cans clean.

2. Store it right! Do you keep open food out? Plastic, paper, and cardboard won’t stop pests like ants or
cockroaches. Store food in clean, closed containers with tight-fitting lids (snap-top or screw-top with rubber seal).

3. Rinse and recycle! Ants are small—they don’t need a lot of food, so a crumb or a drop is enough for a feast. Soft-drink cans and soiled food containers are very attractive to foraging ants, so wash with soapy water or rinse thoroughly before tossing
them in the recycle bin.

4. Plants and Pets=Potential Pests!  Pets or potted plants in the house? These can be attractive to ants, too. Plants can become infested with aphids or other honeydew-producing pests, and pet food debris can be an ant buffet. Monitor these attractive situations to prevent problems.

5. Ants on the move! If you see a few stragglers wandering across the back of your kitchen sink, you may be seeing the scouts for an ant invasion. Wipe them up with soapy water and a sponge and get rid of them before they report back to the nest. If you see trails of foraging ants, report them! Trails can be mopped up, vacuumed, or cleaned with soapy water and a sponge, but that
alone may not solve the problem.

6. Set Traps! If you spot a full on ant trail with columns of ants going to and fro from the food sources, it is probably time for you to start setting ant bait traps.