An article from the Salt Lake Tribune from 1907 claimed that train operators were able to rid their train of bed bugs by releasing some black ants into the infested caboose. Using ants to get rid of bed bugs sounds great, but do ants eat bed bugs?
Which ants would most likely eat bed bugs?
While some ants such as fire ants are likely to eat a bed bug if they had it as an option, most ants are not actually going to cross paths with bed bugs. Red imported fire ants, for example, live outside and rarely find their way inside. Bed bugs, on the other hand, are primarily inside creatures that rarely find their way outside away from their host and corresponding blood meal.
If we look at the list of ants, the most likely ant to feed regularly on bed bugs would be the pharaoh ant. Pharaoh ants dwell inside of structures and will nest in wall voids. They wouldn’t necessarily cross paths with bed bugs nesting right on the box springs and bed frame, but they could easily cross paths with bed bugs in wall voids. This becomes more relevant as the bed bug populations grow and spread to other areas. In addition, ants are more likely to carry something back to a nest if there is a clear path to carry it. Bed bugs hide in small cracks and crevices where it would be difficult for an ant to efficiently transport the captured bug back to a nest.
Killing vs scavenging
The question isn’t simply whether ants will eat a bed bug. Ants, in general, are much more likely to scavenge than actively hunt down prey. While both scavenging and attack mode feeding are both consumption methods, it is an important distinction. Ants scavenging bed bugs that have already died does not do anything to reduce bed bug populations or drive them out of somewhere.
So, do ants eat bed bugs?
Ants do actually fall on the list of bed bug predators along with:
Red Imported Fire Ants
Thanatos Flavidus Spiders
The Masked Hunter
The questions of how often and how much remain unanswered.
Are ants viable bed bug controllers?
Ants are unlikely to go on regular bed bug raids. Ants are more likely to pick off a few bed bugs here and there, after a bed bug population has spread near an ant’s natural dwelling. This is unlikely to provide a significant population reduction. It is even less likely that the center of the population would ever be affected. It is possible that invertebrate bed bug predators could be used as indicators as to where bed bugs are hiding. Controlling their cues and being able to distinguish between whether the ants are pursuing bed bugs, other food, or good shelter would be difficult to impossible.
Don’t replace one problem with another
Before getting excited about the prospects of releasing an army of ants into your home, consider the potential for additional issues. If the ants do eat the bed bugs and reduce the population enough to make it worth the effort, the next step is getting the ants back out of the house. Ants are well known for infesting structures and being expensive to remove.
The Role of An Expert
Whether dealing with ants or bed bugs, don’t hesitate to reach out to the experts at Rove Pest Control to get advice, help, or simply turn it all over into our hands. Our bed bug specialists can confirm their presence as well as provide a quick and efficient solution. If you are dealing with leftover ants that ate all of your bed bugs, we can help with that too.