Leaf-Cutter Ants facts and info. Know Leaf-Cutter Ants weight loss program, habitat, behaviour taxonomy, and many others See attention-grabbing facts of Leaf-Cutter Ants in our animal facts archive.

Scientific identify: Atta and Acromyearmex species
Scientific classification:
Phylum: Arthropoda , Class: Insecta, Order: Hymenoptera, Family: Formicidae

What do they seem like ? Within a single nest of leaf-cutter ants there are a number of varieties of staff, which differ in look. Generally, a leaf-cutter ant is brown, and its physique supported on lengthy, skinny legs. The mandibles are properly developed, and the eyes are small.

Where do they dwell? The leaf-cutter ants are present in Central and South America and within the southern United States. They like a heat, humid local weather and all through their vary are discovered wherever there's adequate vegetation to permit them to preserve a colony.

Characteristics

Leaf-cutter ants kind the biggest and most complicated animal societies on Earth. The staff in every nest are divided into a number of castes, all of which have a specifi c job to do. A colony of leaf-cutter ants is based by a single feminine, the queen. This queen would have begun her life in one other nest, tended and lavished with care by innumerable staff till the day she was prepared to depart. The would-be queen crawls from the underground chambers of the nest into the open air.

All round her there are different potential queens and males obeying with unerring synchronicity their reproductive instincts. The winged females and males take to the air for the fi rst and solely time of their lives the place they meet one another in flight to mate. During this nuptial flight (the revoada), the feminine mates with maybe eight completely different males to gather the 300 million sperm she wants to arrange a colony.

With her sperm bulbs full, she descends to the bottom and rummages via the vegetation and leaf litter to fi nd an appropriate crevice or gap that she will name residence. She has no additional want of her wings, in order that they fall off , easing her underground actions.

Safely beneath the bottom, the queen excavates a small chamber and makes use of a small scrap of fungus carried in a pouch beneath her chin to develop a fungus backyard. The fungus is integral to the success of the colony, and the queen took a small piece from her start nest. She doesn't eat this nutritious fungus however depends as an alternative on physique fats and her now ineffective wing muscle mass for sustenance. She begins laying eggs, and the first younger ants to hatch, her first daughters, can be gardener-nurses. Their obligations are to take care of the fungus backyard and lovingly have a tendency additional eggs produced by the queen. These first staff gather leaves from crops on the floor, on which the fungus grows. 

The queen, now relieved of menial duties, can apply herself to the necessary job of enlarging the colony by pumping out eggs in enormous numbers, producing several types of staff to take care of completely different jobs inside the nest. Some of the eggs will turn into nest generalists that may undertake all method of miscellaneous duties within the nest, whereas others will develop into foragers and excavators, gathering leaves for the fungus gardens and enlarging and sustaining the nest. Some eggs turn into heavy-headed staff with enormous jaws whose job it's to defend the colony. 

After just a few years, the nest, based by a single feminine, has grown to monstrous proportions. It could descend 6 m underground, with a central nest mound greater than 30 m across and smaller mounds extending out to a radius of 80 m. A single nest can take up 30–600 sq. m and include eight million people at anyone time. One of these enormous colonies operates like a superorganism, affecting the encircling surroundings in profound methods. The ants can utterly defoliate complete areas of forest, breaking the forest up into small glades which might be necessary to many crops and animals. In the lifetime of 1 nest, 40 tonnes of soil will be turned over and aerated and fertilized by the large quantity of waste produced by the colony. This wonderful collective of tiny bugs working as one is all began by a single feminine that in her 10–15 12 months life span could produce 150 million daughters!

Key Facts

  • There are roughly 38 species of leaf-cutter ants.
  • During their nuptial fl ights, potential queens can fl y greater than 11 km from their start nest.
  • The complicated society of a leaf-cutter ant nest is held collectively by pheromones produced by the queen and constructed-in instincts. All the ants in a nest of leaf-cutters are sisters, and it's subsequently within the curiosity of each particular person to pull collectively for the sake of the colony. Everything that takes place in an ant nest is for the great of the colony, in order that extra would-be queens will be produced to carry the colony’s genes into the longer term.
  • When a queen is spent and dies, the colony will lose its driving pressure and quickly falter and collapse.
  • When the colony is younger, the queen will produce principally smaller staff, however because the colony matures, the dimensions of the employees will improve. Scientists have discovered that it's doable to deceive the queen of a mature colony into perceiving that she is accountable for a younger nest. This was accomplished by eradicating ants from the nest, decreasing its measurement.
  • Leaf-cutter ants are one of many solely animals aside from people to farm one other organism. The crop in query is the fungus, and no matter its origins, it has developed in such a detailed relationship with the ants that it's discovered solely of their nests.
  • When a lower part of leaf fi nds its method to the fungus chambers, the gardener ants will deposit a small drop of fl uid from their stomach on the leaf with a tiny piece of fungus. The ant’s secretion acts like a type of fertilizer, permitting the fungus to proliferate via the leaf.
  • The fungus gardens are susceptible to a bacterial illness, which might spell catastrophe for the ant colony. To cease this bacterial an infection in its tracks, the ants can produce a potent antibiotic, which is utilized to the gardens in a lot the identical method as farmers apply pesticides to their crops.
  • Starting a colony is a troublesome business, and solely 2.5 p.c of potential queens can be profitable. Many can be eaten throughout the nuptial flight or once they land, and many could efficiently begin a colony solely to lose it to illness within the fi rst three months.
  • In some elements of their vary, leaf-cutter ants will be fairly a nuisance to people, defoliating crops and damaging roads and crops with their nest-making antics.