What Eats Fire Ants?
Originating in Brazil, the fire ant arrived in the United States in the 1930s. The ants thrive in warm climates and are scattered from coast to coast throughout the South. With few natural predators, fire ants spread and breed easily and have become quite a pest. Their sting causes a burning sensation on human flesh.
It may sound strange, but humans are the strongest natural predator of fire ants, with many indigenous groups in South America consuming fire ants are part of their diets. Ants are rich in protein and readily available. The ants are scooped up from their hills with makeshift colanders that sift out the dirt. The ants are fried in a pan and eaten.
Fire ants make up to 50 percent of an armadillo's diet in the American Southwest, according to the University of Texas. These ants spend significantly less time in their nest than other ants, making them easier targets for hungry armadillos.
The phorid fly has been used to combat infestations of fire ants. This parasitic fly lays eggs in the head of a living fire ant. When the egg matures and hatches, the ant dies and the larvae eat the ant's body for food. This has earned the phorid fly the nickname "ant decapitator fly."
Anteaters, closely related to the armadillo, also make ants a primary food source. The anteater's long, sticky tongue is capable of slurping up dozens of ants in seconds. The anteater is immune to the bites of the fire ant and happily consumes them. The aggressive anteater looks for ant nests, then disturbs them, causing ants to rush to the surface, where they get gobbled up.