Leafcutter Ants

close up of leafcutter ant carrying leaf

Leaf cutter ants are interesting ants from the southern parts of North America, and Latin and South America.

Unlike the carnivorous army ants, leafcutter ants are herbivores. In fact, leafcutter ants are the insect version of "farmers."

They live in tunnels underground and send their foraging ants out to cut leaves and carry them back to the nest. Slightly larger soldier ants accompany the foraging ants and protect them while the foragers cut and gather leaves.

Ants are generally known as a hard-working insect. Their colonies can grow very large. Some ants are cleaning and maintaining the tunnels of the colony their whole life. The ants are very efficient at their work.

The foraging ants carry the leaves back to the colony and turn them over to smaller worker ants. The worker ants chew up the leaves and then feed the "mulch" to a fungus. It is the product of this mulch-fed fungus that is the ants' food.

Amazonian leafcutter ants carrying leaves

Each leaf cutter ant colony has one large queen that lays eggs. When a new queen is born she leaves the colony and takes a little of the fungus with her to start her own colony.

For a demonstration of leafcutter ants foraging for leaves, bringing them back to the colony, and to see what the ants do with the leaves, watch the You Tube video below.