What Eats Ants: Natural Predators That Can Help You Fight Back
Ants are a common household pest that can carry diseases and contaminate food, so it’s natural to want to resolve an ant infestation as quickly as possible. In the spring and summer, however, ants can also become particularly active as their colonies swell, and you might find them accumulating in your outdoor living spaces or destroying crops in your garden.
We can’t remove all the ants outside the home the entire food chain would collapse without these plentiful prey. But you can use this food chain to your advantage. Some animals in your outdoor spaces certainly want to (and try to) help you control ant populations by eating them.
Many gardeners purchase containers full of live ladybugs to control aphid infestations in their yard. The carnivorous ladybugs eat 40-50 aphids a day, leaving the previously infested plant untouched. Likewise, some species in your own backyard could be beneficial to you (and detrimental to your ant population) without disturbing the local ecosystem.
Today, we’ll explore several common animals that might help ward off ants in your yard or garden, providing a first line of defense against an indoor infestation.
Why Do It Naturally?
Homeowners who want to see fewer ants in or near their home might opt for a store-bought, DIY ant control spray to solve their problem. However, these sprays can contain chemicals that are harmful to children, pets, or other insects (like pollinators) that were not their intended target.
Masters Gold Coast’s trained and certified experts use specialized equipment and chemicals to minimize the impact of their services on the environment. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach to pest control that focuses on using a combination of strategies to effectively and sustainably manage pests while minimizing harm to human health, the environment, and non-target organisms.
IPM takes into account the ecology and behavior of pests, as well as the other living things their treatment might impact. While we do not recommend the purchase of predators to solve your outdoor pest problems, we do our best to ensure that these naturally occurring predators are unharmed by our approach, so they can continue to thrive in natural environments after treatment.
Natural Ant-Eaters On Your Team
Because ants are found in and near densely populated nests, their sheer numbers make them a delicious and nutritious meal for animals of all sizes all over the world.
Some species, like the anteater (native to South America) and aardvark (found all over Africa) have evolved and developed features specifically to help them locate and eat ants in huge numbers. Despite an ant’s tiny size, their nests are densely populated enough to sustain these huge mammals, which can weigh up to 150 pounds.
In the United States, few of us have access to anteaters and aardvarks, but we do have plenty of animals that depend on ants for food. Some of them may seem creepy and crawly, but they all have a place within their local ecosystem and food chains.
Antlions are a group of about 2,000 species of insects that feed primarily on ants and other small insects. Their distinctive larvae look like small, light brown beetles with massive pincer-like jaws. Once mature, antlions resemble a delicate dragonfly with slender wings. Antlions are found in a variety of habitats, including sandy areas, grasslands, forests, and deserts. They construct funnel-shaped pits in loose soil, where they wait at the bottom with only their jaws exposed. When an ant or other small insect falls into the pit, the antlion larva quickly grabs it with its strong jaws and injects digestive enzymes to immobilize and consume the prey.
Beetles are a large class of insects with about 400,000 described species, making up almost 25% of all known animal species. Ground beetles, in particular, are known to hunt ants, termites, moths, and other small insects. These pest-eliminating insects vary significantly in size, shape, and color, but the most common species on the East Coast are small, black or brown, and can sometimes be mistaken for cockroaches. Ground beetles do not damage household structures or furniture and are harmless to people and pets.
Fireflies are well known for their ability to produce light through a process called bioluminescence. Adult fireflies do not bite humans in fact, many don’t eat anything at all. Their larvae, however, are carnivorous and feed on ants, ant larvae, and various other invertebrates. Fireflies are found in a variety of habitats, including forests, fields, wetlands, and gardens. They are often associated with areas near water, as their larvae require moist soil or aquatic environments to develop.
Wolf spiders are one of the scariest-looking predators on our list. These massive spiders can have leg spans of up to three inches across! Wolf spiders do not typically build webs, and instead use their excellent eyesight and incredible speed to hunt for live prey (including ants). Once a wolf spider catches its prey, it can inject it with venom to paralyze it. While a bite from a wolf spider may cause localized pain and swelling, it is typically not dangerous and does not pose a significant threat to humans.
Jumping spiders are generally small to medium-sized spiders, typically smaller than a half-inch in length. They have compact bodies, stout legs, and large eyes, which provide them with exceptional vision and depth perception. Like wolf spiders, jumping spiders do not catch prey in webs, and instead stalk and leap on unsuspecting prey, including ants and other small insects.
Woodpeckers generally have a stocky body with a strong neck and sturdy legs. They have a chisel-like beak that is specially adapted for drilling and excavating wood. Woodpeckers are primarily insectivorous, feeding on various insects and their larvae found in trees. They use their strong beaks to peck, probe, and chisel into wood, excavating holes to reach their prey, and have long, barbed tongues that they can extend deep into crevices to extract insects. Even though woodpeckers can be a nuisance, they can help control various insect populations, like carpenter bees, and of course, ants.
Bluebirds are known for their vibrant blue plumage, which gives them their name. Bluebirds primarily feed on insects, including ants, beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and spiders. Bluebirds typically forage by perching on elevated spots and swooping down to capture prey on the ground. Blue birds are remarkably willing to accept and utilize nest boxes provided by humans, so consider hanging a nesting box to encourage these birds to settle on and protect your property from pests.
Wrens are typically small birds with rounded bodies, short wings, and tails that are often held upright. Wrens are known for their active and energetic behavior as they flit around exploring trees, shrubs, and other vegetation in search of food. Wrens are primarily insectivorous, eating insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates, but many species also eat vegetable matter and some eat small frogs and lizards.
Robins have plump bodies with a grayish-brown upper plumage and an orange-red breast. They inhabit a variety of habitats, including woodlands, forests, suburban areas, parks, and gardens. Robins are often seen foraging on the ground, using their sharp eyesight to search for earthworms, ants, insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates.
Skinks are lizards identified by elongated bodies with short legs and a long tail with smooth, shiny scales. Many skinks are adept climbers and can scale trees or rock surfaces with ease and are known for their agility and speed on the ground. They primarily feed on insects, such as beetles, ants, termites, spiders, and grasshoppers. Skinks are renowned for their voracious diets, and having many skinks in one area can have a profound impact on insect populations.
Frogs can be found in large numbers in forested habitats in and wooded suburban areas, often in trees, shrubs, or on vegetation near water bodies. They use their long, sticky tongue to catch their prey. Frogs are insectivorous and primarily feed on a variety of small invertebrates, including ants, mosquitos, beetles, spiders, and other small invertebrates.
Toads are similar to frogs with a few key differences. Toads mostly live on land in forests, fields, or gardens. They have shorter legs designed for walking rather than swimming. Toads also have dry, rough skin compared to frogs. However, their diets are very similar: Toads are voracious insect predators and consume beetles, ants, flies, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, crickets, moths, and more.
Black bears are the United States’ smallest and most widely distributed bear species. Bears typically live in forests, but will sometimes wander into residential areas in search of food. Despite their size (black bears can weigh up to 500 pounds! ), the majority of black bears’ non-plant food intake consists of insects, such as bees, yellow jackets, ants, and beetles and their larvae.
Shrews and moles are both small, hairy mammals that belong to different families but share some similar features, and both are frequently found in yards and gardens. Both shrews and moles are highly active and fast-moving, so they both require a constant intake of food to support their metabolisms. Both of these critters spend their days burrowing underground or under brush in constant search of ants, insects, worms, spiders, and other small invertebrates.
Eliminate Your Pests and Protect Your Wildlife
No one wants to find pests in their home unexpectedly, but many of us want to protect our natural neighbors outside. Pest control professionals play a crucial role in managing pests while ensuring the protection of local wildlife. When it comes to comprehensive pest control services in Varsity Lakes, it’s essential to rely on experienced professionals who understand the delicate balance between addressing pest issues and safeguarding the environment.
At Masters Gold Coast, our integrated pest management strategies minimize harm to non-target animals and promote ecological balance. We emphasize preventive measures, habitat modification, and the least toxic control methods while focusing on long-term solutions to reduce reliance on chemical pesticides.
Our certified pest control professionals conduct thorough inspections of your property to identify specific pest species and tailor our treatments to selectively target pests while minimizing harm to wildlife. We are continually learning to stay up to date on regulations and best practices to ensure compliance with wildlife protection laws and standards.
If you want to keep local wildlife safe while protecting your home and garden this summer, contact Masters Gold Coast. We know how to do it right.