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Do bees eat ants?

4 May 2022
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No, most bees have a plant-based diet rich in pollen and nectar. Some species of stingless bees have been observed feeding on the flesh of dead animals but their diet does not extend to living insects like ants.

The opposite is very much true of ants with honey, honeycomb, and even protein-rich young larvae on the menu for any ants that make it inside the nest or hive.

Any deceased bees will also be on the menu, being split apart and carried back to the nest for food at a later stage.

Despite not being part of bees' diets, ants and bees have been known to clash due to their close proximity in most habitats.

Bees vs ants

The video below depicts an invasion of green ants on a hive of honeybees.

While bees will not eat ants they are perfectly capable of defending themselves against these aggressors.

Bee stings are much more effective against other insects than they are mammals and pose a formidable threat to even the largest ants.

Insects do not benefit from elastic skin like we do which means bees can successfully remove the barb from the sting location and continue to sting new targets.

This means an individual bee can kill tens if not hundreds of ants in a single encounter.

Both ants and bees are highly social, this allows them to quickly and easily communicate things like potential resources and threats.

This social organization means that it's very rare that a single ant or bee will be involved in a confrontation.

Either insect can raise a form of chemical alarm to warm close colony members they are under attack and effectively call for reinforcements.

Guard ants have even been observed starting from side to side across ant trails in what is believed to be an attempt at disrupting the chemical trail and confusing any ants following it.

Ants and bee hives

Managed bee colonies referred to as hives regularly come under attack from local ant nests.

The sugar-rich contents of honey are an irresistible draw for ants and can lead to large-scale invasions of wooden hives.

Healthy managed hives are normally able to fight these unwanted intruders with guard bees dispatching any ants that make it to the entrance of the hive.

Under populated hives or hives infested with Varroa mites are less likely to be able to defend against an ant invasion which can lead to colony collapse completely destroying the hive.

Ants are also known carriers of DWV or Deformed Wing Virus, which can severely affect the development of a bee's wings and abdomens leading to bees with no wings.

How to deal with ants in a managed hive

Ants and bees both belong to the same superfamily Apoidea.

This means that traditional poisons and pest control measures will likely have a negative effect throughout your bee colony as well.

One interesting tactic is to take advantage of the ant's inability to take flight for the majority of the year.

Placing the feet of your hive in shallow bows or troughs of water will make accessing the hive an impossible task.

The water tension of tap water is enough for small ants to walk across so adding a small amount of oil or soap to the solution will reduce water tension and stop any ants from entering the hive.

Any ants left on the hive structure will need to be removed manually but a healthy colony of bee's will is likely to complete this task with little to no help from external sources.

Placing ground cinnamon around the legs of your hives has also been observed to deter ants but doesn't always seem to be effective.

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