What animals eat ants

>>>>>>>>>> The enemies of the ants


Who are the ants' greatest enemies? Many will immediately answer spontaneously - man! But far from it, the ants' greatest enemies are the ants themselves. This applies to other species of ants as well as nests of the same species. But other living things, such as spiders, beetles, birds and some species of mammals, also make ants, both in the , as well as outside the nest that life is difficult.

In the following I will deal with the individual adversaries of the hill-building wood ants. If you want to deal more intensively with the life of ants, I refer you to the literature on the right.

In my article I have made a subdivision according to: ants, invertebrates, birds, mammals and humans.


Species that access the same food sources are attacked as the greatest threat. These are viewed as food competitors and ruthlessly fought. Species that pursue different nutritional strategies, however, are mostly tolerated.

The most aggressive species among the forest ants are by far the blood-red predatory ants (Formica sanguinea). She undertakes veritable raids against other peoples in order to steal their eggs and pupae and to capture adult animals. Some of the ants killed serve as food. The larvae hatched from the eggs and pupae are raised by the predatory ants and then do the work in the predatory ants' nest.

But the workers of two nests, the monogynous "Great Red Wood Ant" (Formica rufa), will fight each other ruthlessly as soon as their areas of influence overlap. It is somewhat different with the mostly polygynous species of the meadow ant (Formica pratensis) and the small bald-backed wood ant (Formica polyctena). The nests of their colonies live among each other in peaceful harmony. The reason is that all nests have an origin nest.

The question arises, how do the ants of one nest recognize the ants of another nest? The reason for this is the different and individual nest odor of the nest or colony. This comes from the queen or queens and is transferred to the workers. Everything that does not have this scent is regarded as an enemy and is attacked.


>> Ant lion <>

These interesting insects are assigned to the order of the reticulated winged (Planipennia). About 2000 species are known worldwide. But a noticeable "funnel construction" is only observed in approx. 10%. So far, only a few species have been identified in Germany. As an example, the quite common species of the spotted ant virgin (Euroleon nostras) should be mentioned.

The range of prey is not limited to ants. Other insects such as spiders, woodlice and millipedes are not spared either.

In the rocky world of Saxon Switzerland, the ant lions can be seen quite often. Mostly under rock overhangs and protected from rain, the larvae trap funnels can be found in the dry sand. Once it has slipped into the funnel, there is usually no escape for the ant.

They are drawn into the sand after a lethal injection of venom and are prey to the ant lion. Then the inside of the body is liquefied by injected enzymes and finally sucked out. If their hunger is satisfied, the insect's empty shell will become out of the funnel.

The ant lion is the larval stage of the ant damsel. The ant lion goes through three larval stages. This is the longest part of their life and usually lasts three years. The adult larva spins a spherical cocoon in which it sheds its skin to become a pupa. You escape as a full insect, the damsel.

The ant maids are similar in appearance to the dragonflies.

>> Brackish wasps and wasps

Other examples are braconid wasps (Braconidae) and parrot wasps (Proctotrupidae). In summer you can occasionally observe how the wasps, only 1-3mm in size, hover close to the forest ant nest. They always try to approach the ants from behind. Then they push down at lightning speed to lay their eggs. Once this has happened, they quickly pull back upstairs to look for a new victim. The wasp's egg is preferably placed in the ant's neck. The larva then develops in the slowly dying ant.

>> Flying <>

Several types of flies are known in which larvae develop endoparasitic in ants. This means that a parasite lives, feeds and develops in a host.

Example: humpback flies (Phoridae):

Humpback flies are common all over the world. Some species lay their eggs in ants and eat their bodies from the inside. Finally, they penetrate the head and eat the brain.

Example: Strongygaster globula:

This species of fly is often described as an ant parasite that parasites on the females of Lasius niger. The maggot living in the ant's abdomen causes the ovaries to atrophy, so that the queen cannot lay eggs. The parasite leaves the host, which then lives on for weeks, in spring and forms its puparium, which is protected and licked by the ants like their own brood. The fly, which hatches after about 3 - 4 weeks, looks for its way into the open before its wings unfold.

Further links and examples - ants and flies:

- Humpback flies - Tierdoku.com - (Extensive and detailed description of humpback flies)

- Euryplatea nanaknihali - A fly becomes an ant hangman

- Strongygaster globula - The fly lays its eggs in queens of Lasius

>> spiders

Many species of spiders also target ants. One example is the gallows spider (Theridium triste), which lets itself down onto the ant from above at lightning speed and seizes the ant. Back up in its hiding place, it is wrapped up and then eaten.

Other spider species that specialize in ants belong to the Theridiidae family (- ball spiders ). Ball spiders used to be called tuft web spiders (Dahl F. 1910). The name "hood web spiders" is also common.

further examples of ant-eating spiders:

Family: Ball spiders (Theridiidae) - Genus: Lasaeola - Species: Lasaeola tristis (syn.Dipoena tristis)

Family: Ball spiders (Theridiidae) - Genus: Dipoena - Species: Dipoena torva

Family: Zodariidae (ant hunters) - genus Zodarion - the spiders of this genus feed exclusively on ants.

Family: Smooth-bellied spiders (Gnaphosidae) - genus Callilepis - the two almost identical spider species Callilepis nocturna and Callilepis schuszteri have also specialized in ants.

interesting links - ants and spiders:

- Main web spiders (ball spiders) - Wikipedia -

- Zodarion - way of life, species - Spinnenforum.de -

- Callilepis schuszteri - way of life, nutrition -

- Theridiidae (Spider Forum) )

Among the many insects that live in the ant nest, there are some species that can cause great harm to the colony. These ant guests are known as synech ears. With the help of sophisticated strategies, they evade the attacks of the workers.


The greatest predators among vertebrates are birds in general. The woodpeckers are the most important ant-eaters in our latitudes. Mostly the green woodpecker, gray woodpecker and wryneck. In winter, all woodpecker species go to wood ant nests, with green and black woodpeckers in particular digging deep tunnels in the hills. For them, the ant nests are vital for survival in winter, they are one of the few sources of food in winter.

If the dome of the nest is heavily perforated, water can penetrate the openings and a repetitive alternation between thawing and freezing cycles can lead to indirect damage. As a rule, the damage to the nest remains small and the ant colony does not suffer any major damage.


It is different with wild boars. Their population has increased sharply in some areas in recent years. During the winter months, the wild boars rummage through the nests in search of something to eat. Here they are primarily targeting the coveted larvae of the large rose beetle. The damage that wild boars cause to the nests is usually so severe that the nests are completely destroyed and the colony does not survive.

Badgers and foxes can also occasionally be seen on the ant's nest, but they usually do not pose a great threat to an ant's nest. Although our native toads and lizards also have ants on their diet, they are not very important as ant-eaters.

In summer, nests of birds and mammals are not only used as a source of food but also for pest control. They let the ants spray them with formic acid and thus drive annoying vermin out of their fur or plumage.

The human being

Humans intervened in the life of ants many centuries ago. Mostly this was collecting ant pupae. The dolls were mainly used by the townspeople to feed their housebirds. In Austria a professional group was even named after this activity. The people who did this job were called "Ameisler".

The profession of the "ant" as well as many other medieval trades is described in the informative and very entertaining book by Michaela Vieser "From coffee loafers, outlets and whalebones: Professions from bygone times" .

Even today, humans still pose a significant risk to the nests of the forest ants. Here, one thinks primarily of forestry with logging and road construction work with heavy technology.

The nests do not always have to be destroyed directly; abrupt changes in the ants' habitat are also problematic. Sudden release of the nest, removal of aphid food trees can lead to the weakening or destruction of a colony.

The forestry measures can usually be planned so that damage to the nests can be avoided or minimized. This includes, for example, marking the nests before logging, leaving a sufficient number of leaf trees in the area and abruptly clearing the nest.

Ant nests can also be encountered during road construction work. As a rule, a rescue or emergency relocation is required here, which must be carried out by trained ant wardens and must be applied for at the lower nature conservation authority. The same applies to private properties on which ants can represent an unreasonable nuisance.

But also hikers and occasionally destroy or damage the anthills, which are often located on paths and sunny spots. In this case, small structural measures in the form of barriers made of wood and explanations on information boards can help to increase the acceptance of hill-building forest ants.

Of course, all of these measures require that the locations of the nests are known in order to be able to react in good time.

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Literature sources:

- The wood ant: biology-ecology and forest use

- Ant lions and ant maids - Johann Gepp / Herbert Hölzel

Interesting links:

- GEO - Nice video about the ant lion sand trap

- Wikipedia- The brackish wasps

- Zehrwasps - Description of the species

- Wikipedia - The Great Rose Beetle

- NABU - The Ant Lion - Insect of the Year 2010