How much does an individual ant eat and harvest?
We first need to determine how much an individual ant eats in one day. The amount an ant will eat will vary from species to species, but the average ant consumes approximately 1-2 miligrams of food per day - About 20-35% of their body weight. This is not the same as the amount of food that they will harvest, or bring back to the nest. An ant will make an average of 30 foraging trips each day, and often times they will be carrying 5 to 50 times their body weight. Using 5 times their body weight as our average load, it is not unreasonable for a single ant to bring back 750mg (almost 1 gram) to the colony each day.
How much does an ant colony eat and harvest?
Colony size can vary greatly between different species of ants and from colony to colony. Species like the Temnothorax (Acorn Ants) can have a colony with as little as 50 ants, whereas species like the Leaf Cutter Ant can have colonies with over a million ants! So an colony of 50 ants will only eat about 1 gram of food per day (50 ants x 2 miligrams each), and they will harvest about 37 grams or 1.3 ounces of food and material each day. An average sized Harvester Ant colony (A very common ant) of 4,000 ants will eat approximately 8 grams of food per day, but will harvest 6.5lbs of food and material. So how much does a colony of a million ants eat and harvest? The will eat about 4.5 pounds of food per day, but they can havest up to an incredible 1,653lbs!
What do ants eat?
First off, there are over 12,000 classified species of ants, and many of them have very specialized diets, so our generalized answer to "what do ants eat" will not apply to many ant species.
The diet of the ant runs the gammit when it comes to food. Ants can eat nearly anything that a human can eat and then some. Fruits, vegetables, seeds, wheat, sugar, herbs, dairy, meat, other insects, fungus, etc. See our What Do Ants Eat? page for a comprehensive breakdown.