When you keep a tarantula, it can happen that at one morning you find ants infesting your tarantula enclosure. When ants crawling in your house is one thing, but they definitely like an enclosure that is warm and has a good layer of a substrate.
Ants can be very tedious to have in your house, but you probably ask yourself if this is a problem when they are in your tarantula enclosure? So, are ants a danger to tarantulas?
Ants can be a real danger and are one of the biggest threat to tarantulas kept as pets in enclosed spaces. Although a few ants in your tarantula enclosure may not be an immediate problem, when ants infest your spider enclosure can eventually kill your tarantula. Especially during the sensitive moulting of tarantulas ants are a serious risk for your spider. Where some ant species may not cause any problems, many ants species will and therefore should be removed immediately.
Why are ants a danger to tarantulas
You would think that tarantulas don’t have enemies that are smaller than themselves. But it seems like ants can be a real danger to tarantulas. So let’s have a closer look at why.
In nature, tarantulas avoid contact with ants and tarantula rarely have burrows found near an ant colony. And although herbivorous ants seldom pose a danger, omnivorous and carnivorous ants (and that are many species of ants!) are a real danger. A single ant is not a real problem. It is the marauding armies, the number of ants, that pose the real threat to our beloved tarantulas.
Ant armies can dismantle anything edible and don’t exclude tarantulas. And the problem is that tarantulas don’t have any defence against these ants. In nature, they would quickly flee the scene to make a burrow somewhere else. However, with our tarantulas kept in contained spaces, there is nowhere to run to.
How to get rid of ants from your tarantula
All is not lost when you see the ants on time. When you find ants in your tarantula enclosure, quickly move your tarantula to another container. For the time being, you can place the container in a larger tub and fill it with a small layer of water, so they can’t infest the other enclosure that well. Also, it would be good to place the enclosure in another room.
Then it is the mission to get rid of the ants. First, throw away all substrate somewhere outside your house and place all interior objects in water (in your sink or in your bathtub).
Clean the enclosure with water, so no ant is left in the enclosure. Also, wash all the objects you took from the enclosure to get rid of the ants as well. And don’t forget to clean the lid for any ants hiding there. Ants will crawl in any tight space, crack or hole and rinsing with water does not immediately kill the ants. Inspect all sides and every object closely for any ant that survived. Let the enclosure empty for a while to know for sure you have removed all ants.
Besides cleaning the enclosure itself, you also need to find the source where the ants come from. If you don’t find where the ants came from and remove them, they can come back quickly when you place back the tarantula enclosure. Trace the ants back and find where they enter the house, or even trace them back at where the nest is. It would be best if you stopped the ants from getting into your house (and I can imagine that this is also pleasant for you, you probably don’t like ants infesting your house).
Use ant traps and pesticides to exterminate the ant nest from its source. The most important factor is that you kill the queen because the ant colony won’t survive for long without the ant queen.
Although pesticides are very effective, they are also very effective of killing any bug species you keep as a pet — including your feeder insects. So use pesticides mostly for outside and absolutely don’t use it anywhere near your pets.
If you are early on when ants trying to reach your tarantula enclosure you best can use traps and sticky tape to catch the ants. But don’t use this tape close to your spider pets and be mindful that when they do it will injure your spider or any other bug with little sight of a hopeful future.
How to prevent ants from getting to your tarantula?
There are ways to prevent ants from reaching your tarantula enclosure, and when scout ants never reach and return to the colony, it will never lead to an infestation. Ants will follow the scent trails from scouting ants before more will follow the same trail.
If you live in an area where ants are more common and present, you will probably have all kinds of tools and tips to prevent ant infestations in your house. Below I’ll give you some tips to prevent ants from reaching the tarantula enclosure that has proven to be effective.
A moat of water around the enclosure is one the easiest and most effective ways to prevent ants from coming in your tarantula enclosure. Some have placed the enclosure on little legs and placed only the legs in small cups of water.
You can also paint a thick line of vaseline on the outside on every side of the enclosure. Vaseline is often used to keep ants inside an enclosure but is also great to use keeping ants outside the enclosure.
Many keepers have good experience with cinnamon. It turns out that ants despise cinnamon. It also removes the scent trail of ants so that ants won’t find their way to get with many to your tarantula enclosure.
There are definitely other ways to prevent ants from coming inside the enclosure, but these ones have been proven to be successful for many tarantula keepers.
Which other animals are a danger for your tarantula?
Tarantulas are top predators, and there are not many other animals that pose a danger to tarantulas. While ants are the number one danger and can effectively kill your tarantula, some other animals are more an annoyance if they are infesting your spider.
Mites are actually very tiny spiders (same family) that can live in the substrate and on your tarantula. Although they will not attack and eat your tarantula, it can be of great annoyance and stressful when your tarantula is infested with mites. It is not an immediate threat to them. However, when your spider is stressed or (just) moult, you need to closely observe if mites do not infest the mouthparts or booklung openings. Mites can disturb the respiration of your tarantula and can seriously weaken or even kill your spider.
Springtails and lice
Springtails and (book)lice can live in the substrate of your spider’s enclosure. Although no threat to your tarantula, it can stress your tarantula. You can recognize it easily when your tarantula does not like the crawling beneath him or her. It will stand tall, high on its legs (‘tiptoe pose’) and keep its abdomen above the ground. You see that your spider is not comfortably resting. Longterm stress can weaken your animal, which makes it more susceptible to other problems (like mites as illustrated above).
The advice to remove uneaten prey items within 24 hours is often believed to prevent that these insects will eat on your tarantula. Although it sounds plausible, it is not true, and you don’t have to worry that crickets — or any other feeder insect for that matter — will eat and damage your spider. However, that does not mean you could leave uneaten prey items in the enclosure. When they die, they still won’t be eaten and will eventually rot. Dead prey items are a great source for the growth of mould and bacteria. And that, reasonably, is absolutely bad for your tarantula. So the advice is, still, to remove uneaten prey items from the spider’s enclosure.
Want to know more?
Want to know more about how to keep tarantulas and the best way to care for them? Then I can recommend you to check out our basics in caring for your pet tarantula guide!