In the animal kingdom, animals are classified in various ways, from their body parts to what they eat. Insectivores get their name from their diet, and this category makes up around 450 mammal species as well as plenty of other insects. In this article, we’ll explore what insectivores are and provide examples of 18 animals that fall under this specific classification.
What is an insectivore?
Insectivores are animals that primarily eat insects, earthworms, other arthropods.
Insectivores are a type of carnivore or omnivore, that mainly eat insects. However, most insectivores are small in size similar to their diet, especially when compared to other animals that eat mammals.
Insectivores typically have a great sense of smell, and most have flexible snouts with sensory whiskers that help them probe out their prey in mud, soil, water, or leaf litter. Let’s learn more about specific examples of insectivores and the types of insects or arthropods they feast on.
18 examples of insectivores
Here’s a list of 18 randomly selected insectivores with pictures and fun facts about them. Some you might know of, while others may be new to you!
1. Nine-banded armadillo
Scientific name: Dasypus novemcinctus
Nine-banded armadillos are solitary animals that typically come out at night to feed mostly on termites, ants, and other small invertebrates. You can find them in various North, Central, and South American habitats, ranging from grasslands and secondary rainforests to dry scrubs. These armadillos have an incredible ability to jump 3 feet into the air if they are frightened.
2. Eastern mole
Scientific name: Scalopus aquaticus
Eastern moles are a North American species and well known for their burrowing abilities since they spend most of their lives underground. They hunt in their tunnels and can eat food equaling 25 to 50 percent of their body weight. Although moles prefer earthworms, they also eat slugs, ants, scarab beetles, and centipedes.
3. Two-spot ladybird
Scientific name: Adalia bipunctata
The two-spotted ladybug is a species that eats other insects, mostly aphids. In fact, adults can consume up to 75 aphids each day! They also eat insects such as mites, thrips, and fruit flies, making them good pest controls. This species is recognizable by their red backs with two black spots.
4. Giant darner dragonfly
Scientific name: Anax walsinghami
The giant darner dragonfly is the largest species in the U.S., with large, metallic, bright blue spots. You often see them around streams, ponds, and marshes eating flying insects such as mosquitoes, flies, butterflies, and wasps.
5. Bark scorpion
Scientific name: Centriroides exilicauda
Bark scorpions prefer live prey and will eat almost any insect. Their typical diet consists of cockroaches, wax worms, mealworms, crickets, and fruit flies. These highly toxic species have a great ability to climb and are rather motherly, where babies will ride on their backs for 7 to 21 days.
6. Carolina mantis
Scientific name: Stagmomantis carolina
The Carolina mantis is a species of praying mantis that’s brownish-grey to pale green. They will eat a variety of small insects you can find in your garden, including moths, flies, butterflies, bees, wasps, caterpillars, and true bugs. Since they feed on plant pests, they can be beneficial for pest control in your garden.
7. Giant anteater
Scientific name: Myrmecophaga tridactyla
Also called the ant bear, the giant anteater is the largest of the suborder Vermilingua, which means “worm tongue.” As their name suggests, they eat a lot of ants, however, their diet also includes termites. These animals have long snouts, efficient tongues, and sticky saliva that helps them feed after tearing anthills and termite mounds open with their sharp claws.
8. Four-toed hedgehog
Scientific name: Atelerix albiventris
Four-toed hedgehogs are popular pets in America even though they are native to central and eastern Africa. Although they eat plant matter, these animals are mainly insectivores feeding on insects, snails, spiders, and small vertebrates. They also have a high tolerance to toxins and sometimes eat scorpions.
9. American green tree frogs
Scientific name: Hyla cinerea
These bright green frogs camouflage well in the vegetation around the wetland, lakes, swamps, and ponds where they live. These frogs feed exclusively on insects and you can sometimes find them hanging out around lights at night where insects assemble. Their diet includes crickets, moths, flies, and worms.
10. American toad
Scientific name: Bufo americanus
Adult American toads eat all types of insects and earthworms, even though tadpoles mainly eat plant matter. These frogs shoot out their long sticky tongues to trap insects and pull them back in their mouth. They are solitary animals that are grey, greenish, dark brown, or brown with warty skin.
11. Cuban solenodon
Scientific name: Atopogale cubana
The Cuban solenodon is one of two living species of solenodons that are venomous, burrowing mammals most active at night. They can climb and run fast and give off grunts and clicking sounds similar to pigs and shrews. The majority of their diet is made up of earthworms, insects, and other invertebrates.
12. Banded gecko
Scientific name: Coleonyx variegatus
Plenty of lizards are insectivores, including the banded gecko. This species eats a variety of invertebrates, including grasshoppers, beetles, spiders, termites, sowbugs, crickets, mealworms, and solpugids. Their bodies are sandy-colored with patches of dark cross-bands and tiny scales that make their skin look silky.
13. Bearded dragon
Scientific name: Pogona vitticeps
The central bearded dragon is a common and popular reptile kept as pets. They are also an interesting reptile species that have changing eating habits throughout their life. They start off as insectivores, eating around 80% of insects and only 20% of plant matter. However, this ratio shifts as they get older and become more dependent on vegetables and fruits.
14. Pileated woodpecker
Scientific name: Dryocopus pileatus
Pileated woodpeckers are mainly insectivores and rely on sound to locate their prey. They can hear the chewing and rustling sounds of insects in the wild and will use their long tongues with bristles to extract insects from holes on tree trunks and logs. They typically feed on beetles, aphids, flies, and caterpillars. However, their favorite meal is carpenter ants.
15. Barn swallow
Scientific name: Hirundo rustica
Barn swallows have short, wide, and flat beaks that help them hunt for insects in the air. They mostly feed on flying insects such as flies, wasps, beetles, bees, true bugs, and winged ants. However, they also sometimes eat snails, spiders, and grasshoppers. This species is one of the most widespread swallows worldwide.
16. Big brown bat
Scientific name: Eptesicus fuscus
Big brown bats are large bats with bodies 4 to 5 inches long and are extremely fast flyers. They prefer roosting in man-made structures near farms and urban areas, but can also be found in caves where they hunt for insects during the summer. Their diet mainly consists of beetles. However, they also eat wasps, ants, leafhoppers, and other agricultural pests. These bats will migrate during the winter to higher elevations to hibernate.
17. Long-eared gymnure
Scientific name: Hylomys megalotis
Long-eared gymnures mostly feed on arthropods and earthworms. Sometimes called moonrats or hairy hedgehogs, gymnures are in the same family as hedgehogs. However, they have long protruding snouts that are mobile and help them hunt. As their name suggests, this species also has longer ears compared to other gymnures.
18. Chinese pangolin
Scientific name: Manis pentadactyla
Chinese pangolins eat mostly insects, especially ants and termites. They use their strong foreclaws to dig into termite mounds and ant nests. They also have a neat defensive behavior where they curl into a ball to use their scales as protection. Overall, pangolins are the highest-trafficked animals worldwide. In 2020, China increased the protection of this species and stopped using their scales in traditional medicine.