A friend once told me that if you have cockroaches in your house, some strategically placed ants could help get rid of them. I thought that was really interesting, so I decided to do a little bit of research.
So, do ants keep cockroaches away? For the most part, no ants do not keep cockroaches away. There are ants that can feel threatened by them and get rid of roaches to remain dominant, and there are some ants that will partner with them to raid your cabinets.
The answer to this question becomes complex when you consider all of the different species of both ants and cockroaches and take into account different climates and environments. I would never recommend flooding your home with ants just to try to keep cockroaches away, but there is some interesting information that I found about the relationship between ants and cockroaches.
Can Ants Really Keep Cockroaches Away?
As I mentioned above, the relationship between ants and cockroaches is quite complicated. If you’ve seen any of the YouTube videos of ants attaching, eating, and killing cockroaches, you would be led to believe that all ants are capable of this and do it regularly, but that’s just not true.
If you live in South America, the Southwest parts of the United States, or certain areas of Africa, then the answer is yes. The ants that are typically found in those regions will keep cockroaches and many other types of insects away.
However, if you live in any other environment that is not considered tropic or temperate, then the ants you tend to see probably won’t get rid of cockroaches and in some case may even team up with them.
In actuality, there are only a handful of ant species that will kill cockroaches. According to Terminix, the species of ants that will fight and eat cockroaches are most types of fire ants—red imported fire ants specifically—and argentine ants, commonly called black sugar ants.
Now knowing that only certain ants fight and kill cockroaches, it makes you wonder why these species have a bone to pick with cockroaches while others see them as neighbors. Well, with these ant types, red imported fire ants more specifically, it is their aggressive hive behavior that makes them believe that cockroaches are their enemies.
Why Do These Ants Fight?
Red imported fire ants, and argentine ants can be some very territorial insects. Once they find a place for their nest that gives them access to food, water, and shelter, they will do anything to protect it.
The problem with cockroaches living near red imported fire ants or Argentine ants is that cockroaches usually like the same things as these species of ants when it comes to finding a place to call home.
Both cockroaches and red imported fire ants—Argentine ants also—like to live in places that are damp or constantly wet, have easy access to spilled or open food, and provide cover from unpleasant weather and different natural enemies.
Since cockroaches are omnivores and eat mostly organic substances like sweets, meats and starches and other uncommon things like hair, books and decaying matter, they typically are the peaceful beings in the turf war between ants and cockroaches.
Red imported fire ants and Argentine ants are also omnivores—like cockroaches—but since they are more aggressive with their territory, they are more likely to eat other insects that they see to be a threat.
Why Ants Can Be Worse than Cockroaches
No matter how peaceful the cockroaches are when these types of ants realize that there are other insects—or animals, pets, etc.—in their space taking away food, water, and shelter from their fellow ants, they become aggressive.
Red imported fire ants are usually the ants that get caught on video surrounding a cockroach and eating them alive. These types of ants that eat cockroaches will always attack in groups. They typically surround the roach and block off any travel and then attack. The ants will usually eat the body of the roach after they have killed it.
While these ants will definitely do the job in getting rid of cockroaches, they themselves also cause many problems. Unlike cockroaches who run and scurry away when discovered, these aggressive ant species will likely see you as a threat just like they would the cockroach.
With Argentine ants, their feeling threatened by you wouldn’t be a problem since they do not sting or bite. However, if your home has any species of fire ants and they feel threatened by you, they will attack you, your family, and your pets with their vicious stingers.
Since you now know that bringing in the ants won’t drive the cockroaches away, we can now talk about ways that will actually get rid of the cockroaches and get rid of those ants, too.
Better Ways to Get Cockroaches to Go Away (and the Ants too!)
There are many different ways to get rid of cockroaches and ants. There are, of course, repellants, sprays, traps, and other pesticides that can be used to get rid of these little pests. We even wrote an article about if cockroach gel baits actually work here. While these are effective ways that can be simple and easy, there are some safer ways to exterminate and even preventive measures to keep them out.
First, you should try to keep your home from being damp or overly wet. Cockroaches and ants like to look for places that will constantly provide them with water. No matter what season it is, be sure to check pipes for condensation, identify your house’s problem areas, and look out for weather that could cause moisture problems.
Next, make sure that all food is properly cleaned up and stored. Both ants and cockroaches are attracted to sweets and lingering pungent smells. Many of the same types of ingredients you cook within your home are used as attractants in bug bait. To prevent attracting these insects into your home, keep all food stored in containers that cannot be chewed through and in areas that are not easily accessible.
Lastly, make sure that your home does not have places that can harbor these insects. Most homes have an attic or crawl space or even just a forgotten room where all of the clutter gets stored away. Cockroaches and ants love these areas because they can slowly build their nests without interruption.
To keep these insects out, just do that spring cleaning you were always planning! By tidying up and creating some order, everything will be visible so if a cockroach or ant is in your home either you will see it immediately or they won’t find a place for their nest and will leave.
Like I said before, there are actually instances where cockroaches and ants work together. Just like the relationship between red imported fire ants and Argentine ants and cockroaches, it is not an extremely common situation, but it is definitely an interesting one.
This relationship exists between Attaphila cockroaches and leaf cutter ants.
Attaphila cockroaches are a very specific genus of cockroach that is about 3 millimeters long. At this extremely small size, they are typically found living inside leafcutter ant’s nests and often riding on their backs.
These Attaphila cockroaches are myrmecophiles. The word myrmecophiles quite literally translate into “ant lovers”. They coincide with these leafcutter ants, feed off of their byproduct, and typically make the nests better for the ants in it.
The Attaphla cockroach and leafcutter ant is a pest combination that you will definitely want to avoid!