Reptiles are some of the most amazing and diverse animals in the world. For many reptile lovers, the list of wonders goes on and on for these scaly creatures. Reptiles have special adaptations that allow them to live in hostile climates and survive natural disasters.
Reptiles also tend to have very diverse diets. While some reptiles are strict carnivores others might go their entire lives without consuming anything other than plant material. There are reptile insectivores that only eat insects, but do any of those insectivores eat ants?
In the wild, not many animals eat ants. Many ants avoid predation by producing venom or acid that either makes them deadly or just taste bad. Some reptiles that eat ants include horned lizards, house geckos, thorny devils, and eastern fence lizards. Unfortunately, ants aren’t an appropriate food to offer to pet reptiles.
Let’s talk about which reptiles eat insects, and why these animals may not eat ants.
Which Reptiles Eat Insects?
Most insectivorous reptiles are lizards. As far as pets go, some of the most common reptiles that eat bugs are leopard geckos, bearded dragons, crested geckos, and skinks. Many species of aquatic turtles and small snakes also eat bugs.
Some of these animals survive on insects alone, while others supplement their insects with plants and animals. Oftentimes, insectivorous reptiles are opportunistic feeders, and all really eat whatever they can get their mouths on.
Can Reptiles Eat Ants?
Ants are everywhere. In fact, scientists estimate that there are twenty quadrillion ants worldwide, that’s a lot! So, why don’t more animals eat them?
Ants aren’t very easily digested. Since ants are so small, they’ve had to come up with other ways to defend themselves from being eaten by all the animals around them.
Many ants have stingers that can inject venom into the predators that attack them. Other ants use formic acid to ward off predators like birds and small mammals. Ants like black ants can defend their colonies by sacrificing themselves and releasing harmful stomach acid.
As you can, imagine, ants aren’t the easiest prey to get a hold of. Plus, they’re so small that they might not even be worth the trouble.
Despite this, there are still many reptiles that can’t eat ants. However, these reptiles have special adaptations that allow them to eat the ant safely. We’ll go into detail about each of these reptiles below.
How Do Reptiles Eat Ants?
Ants aren’t harmful to every animal around them. If you didn’t know, humans can actually eat ants. So, how do reptiles do it?
For the most part, reptiles seem to be fast enough to catch ants. Some of these reptiles have strategies they use in order to avoid the stingers on some ant species. Others might immobilize ants with large gloves of spit before eating them.
In the video below, you can see a lizard, chasing harvester ants, and how fast it has to move to get them.
4 Reptiles That Eat Ants
So, which reptiles are these magical reptiles that eat ants? Keep reading to find out more about the wild reptiles that are fast and strong enough to capture the tiniest prey around.
1. Horned Lizards
Horned lizards are species of lizard found in the desert. To survive the tough conditions found in their natural environments, adapted to be able to eat harvester ants. These lizards are able to catch ants by using their incredibly sticky tongue and staying very still. As the ants pass by the lizard, shoots out its tongue and catches its prey.
Because ants are not full of good nutrients horned lizards have evolved to have larger than normal stomachs. This allows them to eat a higher quantity of ants to help keep them full for longer. Adult horned lizards can eat about 20 to 60 harvester ants every day.
Horned lizards don’t do well in captivity and generally aren’t kept as pets.
2. House Geckos
House geckos are wild lizards that are often found living in people’s homes in tropical areas. Surprisingly, these small geckos are often kept as pets.
House geckos are natural insectivores. This means that they eat just about any bug available. House geckos can often be observed eating cockroaches, spiders, ants, worms, and other small bugs.
This is one of the reasons why you might want to let a house gecko continue to live in your house if you found one inside. They are very effective pest control and tend to stay hidden during the day.
If you have a house gecko in captivity, we don’t recommend feeding it wild ants. Instead, try to get your bugs from a food source that you know. That way, you know exactly what species you’re feeding your pet and you can be sure that the bugs are free from infection and parasites.
3. Thorny Devils
Thorny devils may be one of the most interesting-looking reptiles that eat ants.
These small lizards are covered in thorns and yellow spines and even have a second fake head on the back of their neck. These Australian lizards are slow-moving but have plenty of adaptations to survive in the harsh desert environment that they live in.
Thorny devils eat black ants exclusively as their food source. Once a thorny devil finds a trail of ants they used their specialized sticky tongue to pick the ants up and eat them quickly. It’s speculated that thorny devils can eat up to 1,000 ants in one sitting.
Thorny devils aren’t kept as pets for many reasons but are another reptile that consumes ants in the wild.
4. Eastern Fence Lizards
Eastern fence lizards are the last reptile that eats ants on our list today.
Fence lizards are yet another spiny lizard that is found in North America. These lizards are true insectivores that eat bugs like months, worms, beetles, spiders, and, of course, ants. One great thing about spiny lizards is that they not only eat native ants, but they also eat invasive ants like fire ants.
Just like most of the other reptiles on our list, eastern fence lizards do not make great pets.
Can Pet Reptiles Eat Ants?
Even if you have a pet house gecko, you should never feed pet reptiles ants. There are so many reasons why you should not feed ants to your pet reptile. For one, ants are super small and difficult to contain. They are hard to keep track of and might end up escaping into your house.
Because of their size, ants are also not very nutritious. One of the biggest problems of keeping reptiles in captivity is providing them with a healthy diet. Unfortunately, ants don’t have much to contribute to a well-rounded meal.
Not only are ants not nutritious but they can also be harmful to your pets. Because of the acid and venom they contain, some ants might end up making your pet reptile very sick. Because ants aren’t commercially sourced you never know what they’ve eaten or what they might be carrying. It’s never recommended to feed ants to your pet reptile.
There aren’t very many reptiles that eat ants. Most of the reptiles that do eat ants are natural desert-dwelling lizards. Horned lizards, fence lizards, and thorny devils are all well-equipped to hunt and ingest ants. House geckos will also eat ants, but should never be offered them in captivity.
Outside of these reptile species, no other reptiles rely on ants as a main food source. If you were wondering whether feeding your pet reptile ants is a good idea then the answer is definitely no!