A leaf cutter ant


  • Local Time
  • Location: Houston Zoo, Texas, United States
  • Source: www.houstonzoo.org
  • Info: Live streaming leaf cutter ant webcam at Houston Zoo in Texas, United States. The fragments of leaf carried by the leaf cutter ants, may be up to 20 times the weight of the ant.

More info: Leaf cutter ants are found in regions of Central and South America in areas with humid conditions - usually forests. The largest member of a leaf cutter ant colony is the queen, who can be twice as big as the largest soldier. The soldiers are the largest out of the workers and have a reddish colour with a large heart shaped head, huge mandibles, a bristly body and long legs. Media worker ants are half as big and the smallest and darkest colony members are the minima.

After the colony chooses a particular tree, the media workers who communicate using pheromones, travel back and forth with the leaves they have cut, guarded en route by the soldier ants. When the leaf bits arrive at the nest, the minima clean and chew them in to smaller pieces and mix them with saliva and faeces to make a sticky paste. This provides the material on which a fungus grows which ultimately is what the leaf cutter ants feed on. These ants are in the end, fungus gardeners.

The leaf cutter ants and the fungus are dependant upon each other for survival. The fungus has lost the ability to reproduce on its own, so it does not exist in the forest where the ants are not taking care of it.

The nests of leaf cutter ants are complex systems of tunnels and chambers underground. Large, mature nests can function with millions of workers and the mound may cover many square meters of ground. The chambers are mostly occupied by the fungus gardens, but others are for raising the young and one houses the queen.

Additional Information:
  • Insects in the City - Texas A and M - citybugs.tamu.edu
  • Leafcutter Ant, Atta spp. and Acromyrmex spp. Rainforest Alliance - rainforest-alliance.org
  • Leafcutter Ants are Farmers Who Grow Fungi - McGill University mcgill.ca
  • 5 Fascinating Facts about Leaf Cutter Ants - U.S. Fish and Wildlife - fws.gov
  • The Leaf-cutter Ant’s 50 Million Years of Farming - American Society for Microbiology - asm.org