Do Ladybugs Eat Ants?

Do Ladybugs Eat Ants?

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Contrary to their gentle name and vibrant appearance, ladybugs tend to be scathing predators in any backyard.

These bright dotted insects boast of a fan following, unrivaled by most insects.

Compare a ladybug to an ant, and there is no doubt that one is considered more of a nuisance than the other.

However, both insects are common in backyards, which begs the question: do ladybugs eat ants?

Ladybugs do not eat ants. Most of the time, these garden kingpins stay clear of each other’s paths. That said, there is definitely a connection between ladybugs and ants – namely aphids, which ladybugs love to feast on. Some species of ants lap up the sweet secretion by aphids called honeydew. Therefore, while ladybugs do not eat ants, the two insects can clash, depending on the ant species, as one eats aphids while the other protects it to eat aphid waste.

Let us discuss ladybug’s diet and how it can become the leading reason you might see the dotted insects and ants attacking each other.

What Do Ladybugs Eat?

We already know that ladybugs love to eat aphids.

Aphids are tiny bugs that suck plant sap.

What Do Ladybugs Eat?
What Ladybugs eat

These small critters reproduce at an alarmingly fast rate, sometimes not even required to mate. Aphids can be extremely harmful to plants and crops.

An adult ladybug can feast on as many as 50 aphids in a day and about 5000 in its lifetime.

However, aphids are not the only pests that ladybugs like to eat. These shiny spotted insects also love to feed on mites, whiteflies, and scale insects, among other pests.

How Does A Ladybug’s Diet Help In Farming?

A ladybug’s eating habits make it a valuable weapon to fight off agricultural pests.

Farmers love seeing vibrant insects help rid of aphids and other pests that may destroy crops.

Ladybug larvae hatch from hundreds of eggs laid in aphid (and other pests) colonies. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the pests, protecting the plants as a consequence.

However, one crucial detail to note is that among its almost 5000 species, not all ladybugs are pest eaters—some species of this beetle-like feed on the plant rather than the pests.

The Mexican bean beetle is one such bug.

Are Ladybugs and Ants Natural Enemies?

Ladybugs and ants are not natural enemies.

However, the showdown between the two insects is often caused by their differing needs for aphids.

Are Ladybugs and Ants Natural Enemies?
Ladybug diet

However, even in such a scenario, they are more interested in the aphids rather than defeating each other.

Ladybugs will attack ants when confronted while feeding on aphids but will move away if numerous ants attack simultaneously.

On the Other Hand: Ants protect aphids while they are feeding so that they can, in turn, feed on the nectar-rich honeydew excretion. Ants only attack ladybugs in the following two scenarios:

1. When A Ladybug Finds Itself In An Ant Nest

Ants are very territorial, so an attack on a ladybug that lands into their nest is not surprising.

Even though a ladybug will not knowingly land in an ant’s nest, the latter will perceive the beetle’s presence as a threat.

Since ants are highly organized, their line of defense is often deployed very quickly, so the ladybug has to act promptly to save itself from being overwhelmed or trampled.

2. When a Ladybug Tries To Feed On Aphids Protected By Ants

Various ant species go out of their way to protect the aphids while feeding to maintain a steady food source.

Ants would seldom build aphid shelters and even move them to a new plant with plenty of sap.

Ladybugs playing around
Ladybugs playing

Of course, these services are out of concern for their food source rather than feeding aphids.

Therefore, when a ladybug tries to intervene in its protective practices, ants can attack it.

While the ants can overpower the ladybug will primarily depend on numbers. If a swarm of ants attacks the ladybug, its best defense is to fly away.

However, the ladybug will have to be careful not to let the ants bite into its skin. If the ants kill the ladybug, they will most likely bring it back to their nest to feed on it.

Some species that can attack ladybugs if they come for their herd of aphids include:

  • Honeypot Ants
  • Black Carpenter Ants
  • Yellow Citronella Ants
  • Red Honey Ants
  • Argentine Ants
  • Spider Ants
  • and Sahara Desert Ants

Bottom Line

While ladybugs do not eat ants, they do clash under particular circumstances concerning aphids.

As ants try to protect aphids and ladybugs try to eat them, they often clash to overpower each other.

Interestingly, should the ants be successful in killing the ladybug, they can end up eating it. 

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