Leaf Cutter Ants

Leaf cutter ants form one of the most complex societies in the animal kingdom! They live in massive colonies underground where the ants perform different job roles called ‘castes’. The leader of the colony is the queen ant, she is the only female ant that breeds and can create a colony of up to 8 million ants! The largest ants are called ‘soldiers’ and they defend the nest and territory. Smaller ants are workers and they help to collect food and rear the ant larvae.

Leaf- cutter ants are famous for chopping up bits of leaf and carrying them off back to the nest. Interestingly, they are not eating the cut-up leaves. They take the leaves in to their nest where they use it to feed a fungus. They then use the fungus to feed the new ant larvae. They are essentially the world’s smallest farmers!

Scientific name
Atta cephalotes
Family
Hymenoptera
Order
Formicidae
Lifespan
10-15 years (queen ant)
Fast facts
Their colonies can grow to 30m across in diameter
There are 47 different species of leaf-cutter ant
Ants have the largest brain compared to their body size in the animal kingdom
The ants and the fungus that they cultivate could not survive without each other
Worker ants 'police' each other to stop any ants breeding except the queen
Conservation status
Least concern
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