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LEAF CUTTER ANTS
 
 
Leaf cutter ants

LEAF CUTTER ANTS

(Atta cephalotes)

Description

Ant colonies of this species can contain millions of ants. A colony is made up of many different classes of ants called castes. Each caste of ants has its own job to do and each caste of ant looks different. There are soldiers (the largest) who patrol the line and respond to any unwanted visitors whilst workers go out foraging for leaves and carry pieces back to the colony. Tiny sentinels can sometimes be seen hitchhiking back to the colony on a leaf carried by a worker. It is though that they protect the worker from parasites and ensure the leaf is free from parasites before it is taken into the nest. Gardener ants tend to the leaves inside the nest and encourage the fungus to grow. The queen stays in the nest laying eggs – she can lay up to 30,000 per day!

Habitat & Distribution

This species of ant has a wide distribution and can be found throughout forested areas of Central and South America and the Caribbean islands.

Diet

These ants are unusual in that they are the only animals, except humans, who farm food. They collect leaves, which they then take back to their nest but they don’t eat these leaves. Instead, they use the leaves to grow a type of fungus, which they then feed on.

Conservation Status

Not evaluated.