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What do ants eat? [Surprising answers]

What do ants eat?

Ants will eat almost anything, including:

  • Sugary liquids
  • Other ants
  • Dead bugs
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Parts of dead carcasses

Finding ants in the home at some stage of the year is inevitable, as they are the most common pests found in homes. It happens enough that many people refer to them as “kitchen ants” or “sugar ants”.

In this Guide you’ll learn about:

  • What do ants eat?
  • Why are they called sugar ants?
  • What are ants’ favorite food?
  • Different types of household ants
  • How do ants consume food?
  • Do ants ingest grass?
  • What do black ants eat?

Ants will devour almost everything, but there are over 10 thousand different species. These different species do not ingest similar things. For baiting purposes, exterminators classify ants into 2 groups according to their diet: Sugar ants love sugar, honey and any doughnuts you have lying around, while grease ants like oily, fatty, and greasy food.

It is a good distinction to remember for North American Ants. You will find marauding groups of carnivorous ants in Central and South America. They feed on pigs, goats, rodents, and chickens. One of the facts about ants is that their mouths are mandibles.

They feed by lifting minor food atoms to their mandibles, and swishing them to mix them with saliva. They have a limited ability to eat solid food. When some ants approach maturity, they do not consume solid food at all. Worker ants, which are the ones you see most often, have 2 stomachs. The first stomach is in the midsection, known as the mesosoma. The ant can regurgitate meals stored there to feed the colony. The 2nd stomach is in the ant’s hindquarters, called the rostrum. That’s where salivated or liquid meals go to nourish the ant itself.

What do Ants Eat?

They eat plants and animals to fulfil their nutritional necessity. Ants are also opportunistic feeders, meaning they will consume whatever they find in your home to stay alive.


But you should understand that not all kinds have the same diet requirements. It’s no secret that ants love to eat! But what exactly do they eat?

Let’s start with three common things!

Sugary foods

Most kinds are very fond of any trace of sugar in your kitchen, such as bread, honey, juices, maple, and syrup. When they can’t get any sugary foods around your home, then they will look for a sweet substance known as honeydew. It is a material that other insects leave behind. Honeydew is a sugar-rich sticky liquid created by aphids they make after eating plants. Some populations of aphids will trade the honeydew to an ant cluster. Then they will exchange it for protection. As the name would suggest, Sugar Ants love sugary foods!

Protein foods

Besides sugary meals, ants also ingest protein to help their development. High protein in foods like peanut butter, eggs, and meat will attract a group of ants. They are also attracted to cooking grease. You can find it on kitchen surfaces and cooking utensils.

We see ants eating and picking up dead insects such as cockroaches and flies when they stay outside. This is due to the protein left within rotting or recently killed bugs and insects, another example showing that these little insects will consume just about anything.


Did you know? Ants cultivate fungi in gardens and some of their species develop and ingest fungus. Ant species such as the leaf cutter ant develop and devour fungus as their nutrition.

Fun fact: Worker ants are unable to eat solid food greater than 2 microns, therefore consume liquids instea

Different kinds of Ants

There are more than 8,800 types of ants in the world, but of these only 1000 reside in the United States, with the most common types listed below.

Common types of household Ants

  • Carpenter ants
  • Pharaoh ants
  • Pavement ants
  • Cornfield ants
  • Thief ants
  • Larger yellow ants

What do Black Ants Eat?

Carpenter ants, otherwise known as “Black Ants”, are one of the largest kinds, with ants within a single cluster varying in size. Adult Black Ants can measure anywhere from six to twelve millimeters in length. Males, or winged swarmers, can measure up to 18 millimeters, and the queens can grow to 20 millimeters in length. In a mature cluster, there are as many as 3,000 adult ants. But some species contain up to one lakh. These are social insects. The colonies include different castes, having a queen, as well as minor and major workers.

This group mainly consumes sugary liquids. If only these ants were little carpenters who could build and fix things. They would ingest what many carpenters consume, and they would keep a small little metal lunch box filled with sandwiches, bags of chips, and some apple pie and a Coke. But Black ants are not carpenters, and they do not fix anything. Black ants can do a great amount of damage to man-made structures.

So, what do they eat? You may think that Black ants ingest wood, the way termites do. But you would be wrong. Black ants do not ingest the wood they infest. They carve tunnels and galleries to make nests. They need those nests to create more Black ants. And when they have more carpenter ants, they need more galleries to make more Black ants… and on, and on.

So, if Carpenter ants do not ingest small lunchbox food, and they do not eat wood, what do they eat? These bigger ants consume different sources of protein and sugar. Outdoors, they also eat living and dead insects, and are interested in honeydew. Carpenter ants will eat meats and pet foods, sugar, jelly, syrup, honey, and other sweet foods.sweet-hoeny-on-a-stick

What about Fire Ants?

Fire ants are omnivorous, however their primary food source is made up of insects. Fire ants have their uses though. They are known to devour populations of fleas, ticks, termites, cockroaches, and mosquito eggs. You could consider them a natural control method. Although it’s not all good news: a recent Texas A&M study found that fire ants currently cost Texas around 1 billion dollars per year due to property damage.

Do Ants Eat leaves?

If you’ve noticed lots of ants in your garden or near your trees, you might be worried that these little insects are eating your leaves. Have you seen these little critters in a long line carrying small branches and bits of greenery back to their nest? It can be fascinating to witness.

In the United States, they do not ingest leaves.close-up-of-ant-on-leaf

There are 47 different kinds known as “leaf cutter ants” which carry leaves for food. These live in South America & Mexico. These insects use leaves to grow fungus for nutrition, but they don’t eat them. Instead, they use these as the foundations for their nest and to produce a new food source.

Essentially, they are farming.

Do Ants Eat grass?

You may be wondering whether your lawn is in danger from these critters. It’s very common to see dead patches of grass throughout your yard if ants are present.

But they don’t actually eat the grass.

What they do instead is carry grass seed back to their colonies as food. Ant mounds are known to cause the death of grass, as they disrupt the roots by moving soil and dirt.

If ants remove the grass seeds, then new grass will not grow.

Do Ants Eat Ants?

Most ants will eat other ants if they have the chance to do so. Fire ants, for instance will kill and eat other ants.

Summary of the Ant Diet

As it turns out, ants eat just about anything, except grass, leaves, and wood. If you have noticed an ant infestation, the first thing to do is determine the location of the colony. Another good suggestion to get rid of these little insects is to identify and remove their food source.

Once you’ve located the colony, you can lay poisoned bait to prevent them from entering your home. Make sure to seek professional help from an exterminator if your problem persists.

There you have it, different types of ants have different food sources.

If you’re seeking help with your ant problem, read our guide!

Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each pest control method, product and process. 

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