Many people are interested in finding out what ants eat. Ants eat just about everything - human food, sweets, dead insects or animals, and many more. When people ask this question, it's most likely because they want to get rid of the ants by cutting off the food supply. When there's no food that ants like to eat, then surely no ants would be wandering around the area.
However, this is not as simple as it sounds. Many ants can make their own food by growing fungus or milking other insects in order to get sweet honeydew. That's why even if people keep all their food in air-tight containers, ants could still be living in their house.
When asked by the question "What do Ants Eat?" it's really difficult to give a general answer. This is because the ants' diet could vary with their species, and there are over 12,000 species of ants all over the world.
But on a general level, most ants prefer eating sweets. Many species of ants love sweet things, whether it may be the sugar in your lemonade, the icing on your slice of cake, or the jam on your sandwich. These ants could eat the remains of sweet food left behind by humans, so if you want to keep the ants away from you, then at least store your food in their containers, and always clean up after eating.
But again, ants are pretty resourceful, so even if you are keeping your food in their containers, ants could make their own sweet substance by eating the honeydew that aphids and other insects secrete. Honeydew is a sweet stuff secreted by some insects when they eat the juices of plants. There are some ant species that take aphids into their colony, take care of them, tend to them, and then milk them for the honeydew that they secrete.
A certain type of ants, called the leaf-cutter ants, grows fungus and eats it. These ants thrive in semi-tropical and tropical rainforests found in Central and South America. First, the ants cut leaves and bring them back to their underground nests. There, the ants chew up the leaves into pulp. Afterwards, the pulp is then stored together with ant feces, where a fungus develops on the rotting plant mush. The leaf cutter ants then eat the fungus.
Aside from sweets and fungus, there are also several species of ants that prefer eating dead insects and animals, including dead grasshoppers and caterpillars. Meanwhile, harvester ants gather, hoard, and eat seeds. The Argentine Ant, which can be found in Brazil and Argentina, and also in some parts of the United States, eats human food such as eggs, meat, oil, and many more.
Overall, an ant's diet may depend on their species, so there's really no telling what type of food the ants in your garden or home prefer. Just experiment and leave a few crumbs of sweets now and then, and see if the ants are attracted to it.