Spiders that look like ants – seems like a scene out of a horror movie, but its true! In this article, we cover what ant mimics spiders eat and other interesting details about them
Ant mimic spiders are fascinating creatures that look like ants but belong to a different species.
They have similar body features and coloration that resemble the physical appearance of ants, but they have a reason for it – to protect themselves from potential predators.
If ants mimic spiders intrigue you, continue reading to learn more about their existence, the food they eat, and more.
What Are Ant Mimic Spiders?
Ant-mimicking spiders, as the name hints, have unique physical features and colorations that confuse people with ants.
It is their unusual behavior referred to as Batesian mimicry to protect themselves from potential predators.
The ‘masters of disguise’ have elongated bodies and ‘false’ waists that make them look quite like ants when they move.
Thus, they are often referred to as ‘ant-mimics’ or ‘Batesian mimics.’
The species of spiders are usually ⅛ to ⅜ inches long with reddish-brown, black, or orange bodies.
The mimicry of the ant concept applies to these spiders because of their colors, which are similar to several ant species.
They have a hard outer covering layered with white and shiny black hair.
What Do They Eat?
These spiders usually rely on ants, insects, and other arthropods for survival. They use ant mimicry for hunting as well.
It helps them get close to ants and insects, who typically aren’t afraid of ants and small arthropods.
Thus, the mimicry in spiders is not only to defend themselves from other predatory spiders, wasps, and birds but to hunt their prey.
However, these salticid spiders need to use this mimic to protect themselves because, unlike ants, which can defend themselves with strong bites and reinforcements, these spiders are lonely creatures.
They also do not have chemical defenses from salticid predation and, thus, need some protection from the predators – in this case, they are model ants.
Where Do They Live?
Spiders that belong to the longipalpa species of ant-mimics, live in the soil for the most part.
However, you can also spot other species living under leaves, tree bark, woods, or gardens. They even set up their own homes in the barks and leaves.
The ant-mimicking jumping spider, Myrmarachne formicaria, is found throughout North America. Other species of American jumping spiders can be found in Quebec, Texas, Nebraska, and Florida.
How Many Types of Ant Mimic Spiders Are There?
There are over 300 species of ant-mimic spiders in the world. These species typically mimic ants’ social behavior, body structure and predatory nature.
The ant-like jumping spiders belong to the Salticidae family and mimic ants, as do the Batesian spiders from the Mymarachne genus.
Still, the latter matches the behavioral properties of ants up to perfection.
Can They Bite?
They may resemble ants in many ways but cannot bite or sting like them. Their bite may feel similar to a bee sting, but they aren’t harmful or too risky unless you are allergic to insect bites.
Can They Jump?
Despite being known as jumping spiders, these fascinating creatures cannot jump. They walk with their front legs raised in the air and rub them together to mimic antennae.
How Do They Defend Themselves?
They look like ants and use this trick to blend in with them. They do so to keep themselves safe or protected from being eaten by other ants or wasps.
Their only defense is to mimic ants so that the potential predators avoid eating them because ants usually taste pungent to wasps and birds.
Many of them also give off the vibe of the velvet ant wasp without wings, known for its excruciating bites.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do ants mimic spiders?
Most of them do this to protect themselves from predators like wasps, birds, or bigger ants. There is another reason, though – some ant mimics also use their looks to fool stray ants into coming near and then making a meal out of them.
Lastly, being near an ant nest gives them protection from predators.
Does an ant eat spiders?
Most ants are omnivores and can eat spiders. The mimic ant spiders, try to blend with ants to escape the eyes of potential predators (including themselves).
It is a defense mechanism to avoid catching the eyes of predators. By looking like one of them, they avoid getting eaten up.
Do ants mimicking spiders bite?
Ant-mimicking spiders bite, but they do not create a severe risk to humans. Their bite may seem like a bee sting.
However, if you are allergic to insect bites, it is advisable to seek medical help immediately.
What not to feed jumping spiders?
For starters, do not feed them any bugs, ants, or wasps that eat spiders because you know what the result would be then.
Large insects like crickets, nymphs, and grasshoppers should also not be fed to jumping spiders.
Unless peered down under a microscope, ant mimic spiders can be confused for ants.
They are masters of disguise for a reason, but that doesn’t mean you cannot differentiate between them and ants.
All you need to do is learn where to look to separate ant mimics from real ants.
Ant mimic spiders are very intriguing, and many of our readers have shared pics asking us to identify these bugs. Please go through some of these emails below.
Letter 1 – Ant Mimic Jumping Spider from Thailand
Male Myrmarachne plataleoides – Thailand
Found this little guy wondering around the garden. It appears to be a male Myrmarachne plataleoides. I think the one I sent previously was a female of the same species. I found some information about them here
( http://members.fortunecity.com/chinfahshin/1folder/antmimic.html ) although I wouldn’t agree with the statement in the article that
says "the males disguise is somewhat spoilted by his ungainly jaws protruding from his head, nearly one-third of his body length". Actually, it looks remarkably like a full size weaver ant carrying a smaller worker which is something you see all the time around here. There’s a photo of a male on the site here which looks similar to the one in the garden. http://members.fortunecity.com/chinfahshin/1folder/spiderm1.html Regards
We apologize for the tardy reply. Sometimes we are overwhelmed with queries and our personal and professional lives interfere with our attentiveness to our readers. Lately though, due to technical difficulties, there has been a dearth of images available for posting. We hope this problem is solved in the near future. Meanwhile, we have been looking at older unaswered mail, and we located your wonderful image. Sadly, we can’t seem to locate your earlier image of a female spider. If you can resend it as a small attachment, we would love to post it.
here you go.
Thanks so much Sean. It is also great that you previously sent us images of the Weaver Ants that this Jumping Spider mimics.
Letter 2 – Ant-Mimic Katydid Nymph from India
Subject: Just for an Information Location: Sivaganga(District), Tamil Nadu(State), India February 21, 2017 3:26 am This bug is like an Ant in the basic view, But its back legs look like a grasshopper but it does’nt jump like grasshoppers, Has a lengthy Antenna and the work same like a Cockroach’s antenna, Slow moving and i saw only one, not a group, and i fount it under a Neem Tree, The bug looks somewhat shy, unlike other ants it has viewing capability I found this at a small village in south Tamilnadu, South India Just Shared this to spread an information and knowledge, These photos were taken solely by me only. Thank you Signature: Arun Kumar Dear Arun, We believe this is a Katydid Nymph, and it is an excellent ant mimic. We will contact Katydid expert Piotr Naskrecki to get his opinion. Alamy has an image of an Ant Mimic Katydid from Australia.
Letter 3 – Ant Mimic Jumping Spider from Canada
Subject: Odd looking ant Geographic location of the bug: London, Ontario Canada Date: 08/22/2018 Time: 05:03 PM EDT Your letter to the bugman: I saw this ant at my workplace today. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen one like it before. Its mandibles were pretty impressive. What is it? How you want your letter signed: Mike Woodford Dear Mike, Count the legs on your “Ant” and you will see that unlike other ants (and insects) which have six legs, your individual has eight legs. This is actually an Ant Mimic Jumping Spider, Myrmarachne formicaria, a European species first reported in Northeast Ohio in 2001, but now spreading to other areas. Your individual is a male, and according to BugGuide: “It is the only ant-like North American jumping spider in which the male chelicerae project forward more than 50% of the carapace length.”