Do Leaf-cutter Ants Really Feed on Leaves?
Leaf cutter Ants

Ants belong to the Phylum Arthropoda and Family Insecta. There are around 12,000 ant species all around the world. They live as large groups called colonies inside of trees, underground or in human habitats. The Carpenter ant, Odorous House ant, and Pavement ant are the most common ants in the world. They feed on various types of food including seeds, plants, fungi, meats, sugary nectar. And also, there are a few ant species in South and Central America, they are cutting leaves. Are they really feed on leaves?

The shortest answer is “No”. Then, why do they keep cutting leaves?

The genus Atta and genus Acromyrmex are known to be the main leaf cutter and genera in the world. They live in underground nests. Leafcutter nests contain several types of workers to do different tasks. Some maintain the nest, some feed, and care queen and youngers. Other workers snip leaves and carry them back to the nest. They grow their own food- a type of fungi. This particular fungus is found only in the ants’ nests. The leafcutters tend them carefully in special chambers called fungus gardens. Leafcutter ants feed their fungi on bits of leaves that they snip from plants near the nest. A huge quantity of vegetation is needed to keep the leafcutters’ fungus gardens well supplied. Ants carry their snipped leaves above their heads in a line. Those leafcutter ants are also called parasol ants because the snipped leaves look like tiny parasols. These leafcutter ant workers are large and strong enough to carry large pieces of leaves (larger than many times their own size) using their mandibles. At last, leafcutter ants drop leaf pieces in the nest hole and gardener ants deal with leaves. They snip up the leaves into smaller pieces and chew them up to form a compost for the fungi to grow in. They fertilize the compost with their droppings and spread special chemicals that kill bacteria, which might harm the fungi. Other workers remove debris from the fungus garden and keep them, clan. There is a mutualistic relationship between fungi and ants. All leafcutter ants feed exclusively on the fungi. When a young queen leaves the nest to start a new colony, she carries a piece of fungi in her mouth, which she plants in her own nest. A large colony of leafcutter ant workers may shift up to 40 tons of soil as they excavate their vast underground nest.

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Leaf cutter Ants
Leaf cutter Ants



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