Do Ladybugs Eat Ants? – When Ants and Ladybugs Clash!


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Chances are, you’ve just seen a Ladybug and Ant encounter, or are looking at one now and wanted to know what the general outcome is. Well, I hope I can answer the question for you.

But are Ants a threat to Ladybugs? and what happens when they meet? I’ve seen this with my own eyes, and for the purpose of this article, I’ve been investigating it further. Hopefully, through research and my general knowledge, I’ll be able to answer your questions.

Do Ladybugs Eat Ants? No, Ladybugs do not eat or attack Ants. Ladybugs and Ants normally clash over aphids. Ladybugs eat them and Ants farm them. Ladybugs usually ignore Ants when targeting aphids. but will hunker down in defense when confronted. Only when numerous Ants attend will a Ladybug move away, or fly off. But why not attack?

So that begs the question…

Do Ants Eat Ladybugs? No, not generally, Ants are mainly scavengers and nectar eating insects. They chase off Ladybugs from their aphid farms. However, they cannot usually do this alone. Often, there’s a power struggle and only when there are sufficient numbers of Ants do they manage to scare away Ladybugs. Let’s look at this further

Ants are one of those creatures that most of us try to avoid. And actually many insects feel the same way, Ants were evolved from wasps during prehistoric times when flowering plants became more prevalent. They’ve survived through maintaining highly organized groups and by adapting to their surroundings.

Ladybugs have survived since the same time, through smart defense mechanisms, the ability to fly and good availability of food resources.

So who would win an Ant and Ladybug showdown? Well neither, but at the times when they meet, neither is particularly interested in ‘defeating’ the other. They’re just interested in either protecting aphids and mealybugs – or eating them. The outcome of each meeting largely depends on the dynamics and numbers involved.

So as the outcome of each encounter can differ, we need to understand more about the motivations for each party, the kind of insects they are and the dynamics of each encounter. Often it’s about the motivations and circumstances of when Ladybugs meet Ants. So the real question might be – what are the possible outcomes.

Are Ants and Ladybugs Enemies?

Ants and Ladybugs are not enemies, they do not actively predate each other and, for both, the other is more a nuisance than a major threat or a potential meal. They’ve existed for a million years alongside each other and each has been able to survive with minor scuffles occurring more than any major conflicts.

Ant vs Ladybug
ant vs. ladybug

When Do Ladybugs and Ants Meet

Ants maintain a number of mutually beneficial relationships with insects/bugs, some of those being Aphids and Mealybugs. Aphids and Mealybugs suck the sap out of the stems of plants and flowers and produce (excrete) honeydew, this nectar-rich resource provides food for the Ants. In return, Ants will protect aphids and Mealybugs whilst they are feeding.

Ants have even been known to carry aphids around with them when moving nests in order to carry on this activity.

On the flipside, Aphids are one of the Ladybugs most favored foods. They will hunt them voraciously, as well as mate and lay eggs close to aphid colonies as a continuous food supply for them and their offspring. They will eat up to 5000 aphids during their short lifespan and have been recorded eating up to 475 in a single day.

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It’s mainly around these colonies/food sources that Ants and Ladybugs are likely to meet.

Do Ladybugs Attack and Eat Ants?

The short answer is no, Ladybugs do not predate Ants and have no interest in them. Ants are simply something that is either around when they want to feed or something that stands in their way of food. One or two they can generally handle. Any more and they’ll probably look to make an exit.

Find Out What Else Ladybugs Eat

When Will Ants Attack Ladybugs?

Ants will only really meet Ladybugs under two scenarios. Both can have very different outcomes. In general, an Ant’s response is generally more reactive, than proactive.

  1. When a Ladybug stumbles upon an Ants Nest
  2. When a Ladybug approaches an Ant farmed aphid colony to feed on aphids

When anything walks within striking distance of an Ants nest, the Ants will automatically see this as a threat. Being so organized they will have a rapid response available to them in the form of calling on large numbers of Ants to help repel or kill the invader. A Ladybug will not intentionally go through an Ants territory, but it happens.

If Ants feel threatened, then they will attack out of defense. It’s down to the Ladybug to sense where she is, sense the danger and try to evade capture or prevent being overwhelmed.

Often Ants are more dispersed when tending Aphid farms and there are fewer of them. Being mainly along the stems of flowers makes it difficult for large numbers of Ants to be in one spot at a time.

Ants will often allow the Ladybug so much space to conduct their feed, but will inevitably try to hassle and attack the Ladybug to chase them away – if they feel the Ladybug is threatening their ‘Aphid operations’.

ants farming aphids
ants farming aphids

How Do Ants Attack Ladybugs?

In the instance a Ladybug is overwhelmed with numbers, tucking her legs in, laying low and relying on her tough shell to defend her becomes less of an option against numerous Ant pincers. In this instance, Ant’s will attack and try to kill the ladybug. Plus they’ll then most likely take it back to the nest as food.

If the Ants are able to get under the Ladybugs hard outer shell (elytra) they will use their strong pincer jaws to try and bite the Ladybug, as well as potentially spray formic acid into the underbelly of the Ladybug. In so doing, if enough of them get a good enough grip, then the Ladybug may succumb to their attack or may need to find an urgent escape route.

Also, being overwhelmed with Ants means there’s less chance for them to use their best defense, which in this case is the ability to fly away. In order to do that they must lift their elytra – which reveals their prone soft wings and soft body even further to attack. So to fly away they need adequate space and time to ‘deploy’ their wings and go.

Some Ant species are more naturally more aggressive than others, some are larger and some have different attack mechanisms, so again these factors need to be taken into account.

Most of the time, Ants will aim to scare away Ladybugs from their food source or seek to defend their home territory. Again, their response is more reactive than proactive.

Find out the 5 Ways Ladybugs Protect Themselves.

Will Ants Attack an Injured Ladybird?

Although more reactive, most insects can often sense when another insect is in trouble. Ants are particularly good at being able to bring down a lame or injured insect and may seize the opportunity for a quicker and easier kill.

Ants will eat Ladybugs, they just do not generally target them, so again it depends on the nature of the encounter and available options for each, numbers, location etc.

It’s also fair to say as Ants are mainly scavengers, they’ll likely eat most things that have recently died. If an Ant, therefore, comes across a recently deceased Ladybug, they may well carry it back to the nest for food.

Will Ants Attack and Eat Ladybug Larva

The scenario for this plays out much the same as for Ladybugs, except that Ladybug Larva – despite being larger, has no tough outer shell. Ant Larva will generally choose their location for feeding more wisely, they’re less likely to feed on Aphid colonies that are being well tended by Ants and Ants are more easily able to overwhelm a Ladybug Larva.

So How Do Ladybugs and Ladybug Larva Get Aphids

These circumstances only arise when talking about Ladybugs and Ladybug larva encountering Ants. We have to remember that not all aphid or Mealybug colonies are turned into Ant farms, some will just exist on their own without any Ant protection. Whether Ants are present or not, Aphids and Mealybugs will still do what they need to do to feed.

To find an Aphid or Mealybug colony that is not farmed by Ants is an ideal scenario for a Ladybug, they can feed freely and are far less likely to be harried by Ants, or eaten by Ladybug predators.

How Do Ladybugs Eat Aphids?

Aphids and Mealybugs are soft-bodied creatures with no defenses. Ladybugs eat mostly Aphids and Mealybugs as they can easily chew through the protein-rich bodies of the Aphids – and can take their pick of the juiciest ones!

They’ll also not always eat the entire aphid. When there are so many around to choose from, they’ll often eat the main soft body part and leave the rest. They also do not generally eat the legs.

Conclusion

It’s really surprising how all these dynamics and the balance of nature works. And to think too that most of this is unseen, yet in summer certainly, this kind of encounter happens all around us. I’ve seen it a number of times. It’s only now that I intend to film when this next happens so that I can add it here for reference.

I hope this has been useful, it’s likely you’re looking at an encounter right now and wanted to find out more. I’d also like to know if you’ve seen this happening and what the outcome was? OR, what would you like to see as the outcome of such an encounter?

Be sure to check out my Ladybug Resource Page for some great Ladybug related educational materials, as well as specially curated gifts of protection and other Ladybug aspects.

Related Questions

What Creatures Eat Ants? Aside from the obvious Anteater, there are lots of animals and creatures that eat Ants. Some among them are Caterpillars, other types of beetles, Flies, Spiders like Jumping Spiders and Black widow, Snails, Snakes, Fish, Lizards and many birds like Sparrows Coyotes and Grouse. Larger mammals like Coyotes and Bears.

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