Found in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America and as far north as Mexico and the Southern United States, it’s the leafcutter ant. These industrious ants cut through vegetation with the greatest of ease and carry back the felled leaves to their secret lair. More on that in a bit. There are 47 known subspecies of leaf cutters that belong to 2 genera Atta and Acromyrmex. Due to their large numbers, these ants are listed as Least Concern by the IUCN.
First the Stats…
Scientific name: Atta & Acromyrmex (respectively)
Length: Up to .25 inch
Lifespan: Up to 5 weeks
Now on to the Facts!
1.) Maxima ants look for the vegetation and are responsible for bringing it back to the nest. After vegetation is found, media worker ants use their strong vibrating mandibles (jaws) to cut sections off the leaves and drop them to the ground.
2.) Majors are the biggest working ants. These are known as the soldiers. They protect the smaller worker ants and the nest with their lives. Basically leafcutter ants, like other ants, use a caste system to dictate who does what.
3.) Once underground, in their nest, minima ants chew up and digest the leaves into small pellets that are placed into a bed of fungus. This fungus consumes the leaf pellets and produces food for their larvae, as well as the adult ants.
4.) The fungus that digests the leaves produces nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere. The quantity of gas released by these fungus piles is similar to anaerobic dairy manure lagoons.
5.) When an ant eats something poisonous, they tell the colony about it via chemical messages in their feces (poop). In order for the other ants to receive the daily messages, up to 35% of the worker ants pay a visit the colony waste dump each day.
But wait, there’s more on the leafcutter ant!
To view more facts on this and many other critters, purchase my book Rainforest Critters. It’s only $17.99 for an 84 page book! Available now through Amazon. Click the logo to purchase your copy now:
Now a Short Leafcutter Ant Video!
Learn more about all kinds of cool critters, right here!
Be sure to share & comment below! Also, check out the Critter Science YouTube channel. Videos added frequently!