Ants are famous for their omnivorousness. And even not so much forest and field ants, which can be met busily carrying an anthill in the anthill, a dead fly or bread crumbs. Their versatility in nutrition is especially distinguished Pharaoh ants - ordinary domestic pests. They can find abundant sources of food even in a perfectly clean apartment. Sometimes it seems that these ants eat everything: a drop of oil that fell to the floor behind the tiles, crumbs near the baseboard, sugar unchanged from the table - and on this food the whole anthill safely grows and develops.
But scientists who studied in detail what ants eat, found out that these insects can not be called illegible swallows. In the choice of food, they are very similar to humans: even though their diet can include thousands of products, they eat according to a strict system. And besides, among the ants there are such gourmets, for which only one, very rare and exotic product is suitable for food.
The standard diet of the most common species of ants
The food of ants of most species is a wide range of simple products, both animal and vegetable. Pharaoh ants, and in the tropics - other species inhabiting residential homes, actively and with pleasure eaten and synthetic food products used for the preparation of semi-finished products or as seasonings.
It is noteworthy that ants are dragging all the products that they find in the anthill, after which all this food ration is divided in a certain order among the members of the colony:
- The larvae eat mainly protein foods of animal origin. In nature, it is the remains of other insects or larger animals, eggs of various pests, and in the house or apartment - in addition, dairy products, gelatin, the remains of dishes from eggs. For the larvae, protein food is essential - they need to grow and develop.
- Adult ants eat mainly easily assimilated carbohydrate food - flesh of fruits, seeds, nuts, rhizomes of plants, tree juices, paddocks, and in living areas - honey, sugar, jam.
Ants find it difficult to distinguish some prevalent product in the diet. At least because each species occupies its ecological niche and specializes in the production of certain feeds.
On a note
Some ants are obligate predators. For example, wandering ants or ants-cerapahis eat almost exclusively insects at all stages of their development.
The basis of the carbohydrate diet in many species of ants are honeydew and dad. The first is the sweet juices that are released by the leaves of the trees with sudden temperature fluctuations. The second is the sugary release of some insects, among which the aphids are most known.
It is interesting
According to scientists, in ordinary red forest ants, the fall is about 60% of the diet! It is not surprising that these forest workers are so attached to the herds of their milking aphids.
And ants-woodworms collect gums as a source of carbohydrates - all known wood tar, which is allocated in places of damage to the tree bark. Nevertheless, and they are very attached to the colonies of aphids - all ants need to eat often, and the gum is unstable on the bark.
In reaper ants, the basis of the carbohydrate diet is dry seeds of grasses - a fairly coarse and solid food. The work of soldiers of these ants in the time free from the defense of the nest is the grinding of such seeds by the powerful jaws to produce a kind of soft gruel, which the other members of the colony can eat.
How often do ants eat?
Ants eat often - several times a day. As a rule, foraging ants (those whose task is the search and transportation of feed) combine the pleasant with the useful, feeding on part of the forage attributed to the anthill. The ants in the anthill are constantly fed from the collected stocks.
It is interesting
In many anthills live insects that have adapted to the neighborhood with ants - some beetles and their larvae, some types of moths. Usually they protect themselves by the ability to excrete the fall, thanks to which the ants not only do not offend them, but also allow them to eat their own eggs. Every ant running past such a tenant will not miss the opportunity to tickle the beetle or caterpillar with antennae and get a serving of sweet syrup instead.
Ants can only starve for a long time during the wintering period, and then only at wintering under hypothermia. Most domestic ants, hibernating under the ground, do not fall into a hibernation, and in winter they continue to actively keep awake in a clogged anthill. For food in this period they use previously collected abundant supplies.
It is interesting
Usually in the southern regions of our country, reaper ants can collect up to a kilo of seeds in an anthill for a warm period of the year - this is enough for a normal colonial life in winter. During the wintering of larvae in the anthill there is no, and in the protein food the colony does not need. By the way, seeds make up about 97% of the ration of reaper ant reapers.
During the winter, ants can starve, especially when the temperature decreases. Ants living in the northern part of Russia can be in a state of hibernation up to 9 months a year, without eating anything.
On a note
Fans who keep the colonies of ants at home know that the main rule of successful breeding of ants is the constant availability of food in an insect-free access. Even during wintering, when an artificial anthill is placed in the refrigerator, food is constantly placed in the food trough: at temperatures above zero some foragers may run out of the nest in search of food.
An important for all ants type of food are the so-called trophic eggs - eggs laid by the uterus during a period of excess food and not developing into larvae. Their ants eat with the disadvantages of other food in the "hungry" months.
Ants-gourmets, or examples of narrow food specialization
Among the ants is a large number of species, preferring instead of a wide variety of feeds to use only one or two foods. Among such species we can distinguish the following:
- The leaf-cutting ants are among the few living things in general who have learned to farm. They collect pieces of leaves in the anthill, bitten with foragers, chew these leaves into a gruel-like mass, put them in special cells in the nest, performing the role of greenhouses and feed on developing in the leaf mass mushrooms. In this case, the leaves themselves do not suit the ants, because they are too crude and malo-nutritious.
- Ants are centromirexes that eat exclusively termites.
- Ponerins are a subfamily of ants, each species of which specializes in feeding some type of insect.
- Ant-dracula is a unique species with a very narrow food specialization. Its adult individuals feed exclusively on the juices of their own larvae. And the larvae, in turn, do not suffer from it at all. In this case, adult ants catch different insects, millipedes and spiders, but they do not eat them, but feed them a growing shift.
In this case, the feeding of ant larvae is so specific that it should be discussed separately.
What do ant larvae eat?
According to the feeding method, the larvae of different species of ants are divided into two types:
- capable of self-feeding
- and unable to feed themselves.
The latter are more numerous. Adult ants feed them by the method of trophallaxis, that is, by transferring the half-digested food from their esophagus to the larva.
Larvae that are able to feed themselves, eat dead insects or other protein foods brought to the anthill, sometimes trophic eggs and even larvae from other anthills. And only leaf-cutting ants feed their growing generation of grown mushrooms.
On a note
Due to the fact that in winter, ants of medium latitudes do not have access to protein foods, they usually give one generation in a temperate climate for one year, and only ants capable of feeding on vegetable stocks leave for the winter. In the same ants that hibernate, hibernating, larvae can also winter - in a state of suspended animation, they do not need food.
From what kind of food the larva receives, it will depend on whether it turns after pupation into a working ant or into a reproductive individual - the uterus. This anthill is like a real democratic society: the working ants in it decide how many workers there will be in each colony, and how many are the successors of the family.