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What Can Ants Bite Through? These Facts May Surprise You

Ants are one of the most common insects found on Earth. With over 2,000 species of ants to choose from, it’s no wonder so many people want to know what they can and cannot bite through. 

This article will explore what ants use their mandibles for, what materials they can gnaw through, what materials they cannot gnaw through. 

5 Things You Didn't Know About Ants x
5 Things You Didn't Know About Ants

We’ll also discuss what types of ants have the ability to chew through some very tough materials.

The Ants Most Important Tool: The Mandibles

Ants use their mandibles, or what we call “jaws” to bite and chew through objects.

Ant bites can be very painful and it is important to know what they can bite through for safety reasons.

black ant

There are many different types of ants in the world with different body structures and mouthparts; some species have what we call a saw-like body that can help them gnaw through what they are attempting to bite.

It is important to know what ants can bite because some types of ant bites are poisonous, or dangerous for humans.

What Can’t Ants Bite Through?

There are some materials that ants cannot gnaw through, such as wood and rocks. In order for them to be able to break down these types of material, they need to use what is called an exoskeleton.

Another reason that ants may not be able to bite through something is if their mandibles are too weak or small in size – like the case with some species of ant that only have one set of jaws which makes it impossible for them to gnaw through what they want.

Materials That Ants Can Bite Through

Ants can eat through a lot of things. They’re extremely strong for their size and very adaptable. Their ability to bite through many materials is their need to nest. They nest almost anywhere.

In order to build their nest, they need to chew through different materials.

Here you can read about a lot of the materials that ants can, and will, eat their way through.

Wood

Ants can easily bite through trees and wood. They leave little holes in the wood as they chew it up into smaller pieces to take back with them. Carpenter ants will even nest inside trees, digging their way through the wood. They won’t eat it though.

Carpenter ants will often bite through wood that is rotted but can also bite through healthy wood. They will leave sawdust behind, small pieces of their gnawed up wood all over whatever they are biting into and around the area where they have been chewing it.

strong ant and bark

Plastic

Ants can bite through soft plastic and even hard plastics. This is usually if they can smell any food on the other side of a plastic lid of a plastic container.

If you’re unlucky, ants can even get to your food before you do. People do sometimes experience ants in unopened packages of chips, noodles, or other food items.

ants and plastic

Concrete

Ants can bite through concrete, and they will do this for nesting inside of it. If the concrete wall contains just the right amount of moisture, ants will, without any problems, start creating tunnels inside the wall. Sometimes the cement even contains some ingredient or nutrient that attracts the ants.

Clothes

Ants can bite through clothes. Cotton contains a substance that ants find attractive, which is when this can occur. The flowers of cotton shrubs create a sap when it blooms, which can be absorbed by the cotton fibers.

ants and clothes

Wires

Ants can bite through wires. They allow what is necessary to be carried back for food or construction and they chew up what is not needed. Crazy ants are especially good at this. If you’re experiencing problems with your wires, you should check for signs of ants.

Silicone

A few ant species can bite through silicone, but these are only the strongest chewers of them all. 

Caulk

Ants can chew their way through caulk and sealant. Some people use caulk to prevent ant infestations (to seal up any holes), but this effort would be meaningless if you’re dealing with an ant species that can bite its way through it.

Walls

Walls are usually the first place to look for an ant problem. Ants will try and sometimes succeed, to chew their way into a home by biting holes in between pieces of wood or other similar material used as supports. If you have ever heard any buzzing behind your walls it may be caused by carpenter ants trying to get inside.

Looking to get rid of ants in the walls? Read this article for more information.

carpenter ant

Grout

Grout is what you use to seal tile and stone into place, and of course, they can eat through this. If concrete isn’t a problem for the small insects, neither is grout. There’s no way to prevent this, apart from getting rid of ants in your area.

Expanding Foam

Many people use expanding foam as insulation for their walls and ceilings, however, ants have been seen chewing through this material. This can lead to a big problem later on because it allows them access to your house and causes damage to your insulation. 

The ants might find the expanding foam especially good to nest in because it’s so easy to dig through and maneuver.

If you find ants in your insulation, you should act quickly. Make sure you deal with the infestation before re-insulating the area.

What Do Ants Bite With?

Ants have what is called a mandible, which are sharp mouthparts that they use to bite through things. The mandibles of ants can be used for scraping and grabbing onto food or other materials.

Ants can bite through most materials, including human skin. When an ant bites down, the muscles in their head tighten which causes their mandibles to close shut around what they are biting onto. This is why it hurts when you have been bitten by one of these creatures.

Also read: Ant Mandibles (do they have teeth?)

ant mandibles eating

Do All Types of Ants Bite?

All types of ants can bite, but not all types bite humans. Most ant species have jaws strong enough to break through human skin. The strength of the jaw depends on what type or group of worker ants they belong to within their colony.

It’s important to note that not all ant species have what we call a saw-like body. These specific types of ants will be able to gnaw through what they wish, while other groups are unable to break through certain materials with their jaws alone.

Why Do Ants Bite?

There are many reasons why ants bite. One scenario is when they’re attacking another animal. If they’re out hunting for food, they obviously need to bite to slay their prey.

Ants may also just be defending themselves or protecting their young, or trying to protect what it has gathered for its colony – e.g., food, water, shelter, etc. If you’re invading their colony, they may very well bite you to protect themselves.

Read more: Why do ants bite?

driver ant dorylus

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Ants Bite Through Skin?

Ants can bite through human skin, but they usually won’t if left alone. They will only attack what is necessary for food or construction purposes and most bites are a result of them being threatened by someone. If you accidentally step on their colony, they will bite you.

Do Ants Bite With Poison?

Some ants do have poison, but not all of them. They do not leave what we call “bites” in the sense of an actual bite as a dog or cat would, but rather a little sting. These can hurt a lot if you’re bitten by something like a fire ant or bullet ant.

Can Ants Eat Through Steel?

No, ants cannot eat through steel. Steel is too tough for ants, but they can eat through concrete and wood.

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.