Leaf Cutter Ants
Here is a short video clip (2 minutes long) showing our leaf cutter ants bringing leaves back to their nest. They do not eat the leaves; instead they use them to help grow a fungus, which feeds the ants.
What are Leaf Cutter Ants?
Leaf cutter ants live mainly in South, Central and North America, in arid, semi-tropical and tropical areas.
They cut leaves from plants and trees to grow a fungus which then feeds them. They don't eat the leaves, but they do eat the fungus. This relationship is called 'mutualism', where both the ants and the fungus benefit from each other.
The ants have natural antibiotics which protect the fungus against pests.
There are different sizes of ants with different jobs to do. There are medium sized, foraging ants that look for food; large, soldier ants; and smaller ants which look after the fungus gardens and the ant nurseries.
There is one queen ant. She produces all the ants within the nest. She will live for up to 17 years. If she dies, the nest dies with her. At around 14 years she produces winged males and females, who perform a mating dance. The new pregnant queens take a chunk of the fungus and fly away to start their own next. The males will die.