Student Research Pages - Ants, Animals and Us

Cover Ants - June 2011

Ants make favorite meals for many animals. In fact, without ants, many animals in our state would go hungry. Ants are a very important source of food for wildlife!

Ants play an important role in the food chain.

Here are some Texas animals that chow down on ants:

Texas Horned Lizard

Texas horned lizards depend on harvester ants for most of their diet.
Did you know that the Texas horned lizard is our official state reptile?
(© TPWD)

Assassin Bugs

Assassin bugs chomp
on any kind of ant!
Assassin bugs are also called "kissing bugs" because they're attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale and can be found near the mouth.

Texas Toad

Toads roll out their tongues and - Zap! flick up ants whenever they can!
Here is a Texas toad (Photo taken by Dawson and shared through Creative Commons.)

Green Lizard

Lizards love to lick up ants! Check out this green anole! Is it waiting for ants? (Photo taken by L. Church and shared through Creative Commons.)

Texas Blind Snake

Snakes eat plenty of ants. This Texas blind snake looks like a worm, but it's really a snake. Pretty cool, huh?
(Photo by Steve Prutz.)

Coyote Eating Tarrantula

Coyotes will eat ants, especially when they can't find enough rodents.
Photo by Jim Gordon. (Creative Commons)

Black Widow

Spiders make many meals of ants.
Black widow spiders eat plenty of ants. (Photo by James Gathany; Centers for Disease Control.)

Golden-fronted Woodpecker

Woodpeckers really enjoy a meal of ants! (Isn't this golden-fronted woodpecker pretty? (Photo © Jeff Parker, 2011)










Ant Lion Portrait

When antlions, or "doodlebugs," are in their larval stage, they eat ants. What we see here is an antlion larva. (The larva stage comes right after an insect hatches from its egg.) Photo by Buddy Venturanza, Creative Commons.)

Antlions, also called “Doodlebugs,” get their names from the way they catch ants. (Make sure you check out the “Doodlebug” activity and video on the “Activities & Lesson Plans” page!)

Ants Eating Other Ants

These ants are attacking another species. (Photo by Alvaro Rodriguez; shared by Creative Commons.)

Ants eat other ants! An ant’s worst enemy is another ant. They are

aggressive and attack other ant colonies. In most cases, ants from different colonies, even within the same species, treat each other as enemies.

The invasive fire ant is the most vicious! They raid other colonies all the time. This is part of why fire ants are such a big problem in Texas. They are making it difficult for some of our native ant species to survive in Texas.

How Ants Affect Us

For such tiny critters, ants have big effects on the world we live in. They play lots of important roles in Texas that make things better for us humans.

One of the most important things ants do is help make our dirt better. Plants need good dirt to grow healthy. When we have healthy plants that means we have good vegetables to eat.

In some places of the world, ants even do more for the soil than earthworms!

Ants – mostly invasive species – can do some bad stuff, too. Check out the chart below to learn about some of the good and bad ways ants affect the world in which we live:

Depending on the species, ants ...
Positive Negative
Control other insect populations Can kill crops
Disperse seeds  Can damage wood structures
Move soil around Short out electrical equipment
Pollinate plants Hurt people allergic to their stings

<= Native versus Invasives