What Insects Do Carpenter Ants Eat?

Carpenter ants often work together to find insects to eat.
Carpenter ants often work together to find insects to eat. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

According to the University of Nebraska Lincoln, carpenter ants are large black ants that burrow through wood and help improve the wood's decaying process. However, carpenter ants do not eat wood. Carpenter ants are omnivores, which helps them have a diverse diet that includes a wide variety of different insects.

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Living Insects

Carpenter ants are large enough to kill a wide variety of insects. According to Washington State University, they are capable of attacking and eating grasshoppers, crickets, leaf hoppers, aphids, crane flies, mosquitoes, honey bees, moisture ants, thatching ants, spiders, daddy long legs, moth larvae, bees, flies and earthworms. Carpenter ants attack living prey individually and in large groups. Larger insects are swarmed en masse by the colony in order to take them down.

Dead Insects

According to Internet 4 Classrooms, carpenter ants will also eat dead insects. Carpenter ants are mostly nocturnal and forage for food at night. Foraging at night may make it easier for them to find fresh insect corpses that other predators may have missed. The carpenter ants carry the dead insects back to their nest and take apart the different parts. Often, they break the dead insects apart en masse using their jaws. This speeds up the process and moves the corpse to the nest much faster than if a single ant carried it back.

Soggy Food

According to Washington State University, carpenter ants cannot eat solid matter as their esophagus is much too narrow and weak to move solid food. Solid foods include the body parts of insects. Instead, carpenter ants place their solid food in water sources. They place these corpses in the water to help make them soggy. The water carpenter ants can then break apart the soggy food with their jaws and swallow it. The water helps make the solid food soft enough to pass through the weak esophagus.

Honey Dew

According to the University of Nebraska Lincoln, only 1 percent of the insects in the colony will attack insects or carry their body parts back for ingesting. Instead, most carpenter ants are actually gathering honey dew to eat. Honey dew is a substance secreted by aphids. The ants often eat this substance directly from the aphid as it secretes. After ingesting the honey dew, they often puke it back up into the mouths of other carpenter ants to share it with others. Carpenter ants rarely, if ever, eat the aphids themselves, saving them for use as honey dew providers.


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