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Leaf-cutter Ant (Acromyrmex and Atta)
leaf-cutter ant

DESCRIPTION: 0.5" (13mm). Overall reddish-brown with spines on thorax; often seen carrying leaves and other plant material.
NATURAL HISTORY: Feed on fungus that they raise underground. Workers snip off leaves and other plant parts and carry them back to the nest, sometimes in long lines. The leaves and plant parts are "chewed" and fed to the fungus they grow in large chambers underground. New queens will take a "starter" batch of fungus with them to found their new nest colony. This is a great example of mutualism; in this case the ants depend on the fungus for food and the fungus depends on the ants for a place to live and food. See Dale Ward's Ant's of Arizona website for more information and photos.

Click on thumbnails below for more images:

leaf-cutter ant leaf-cutter ant leaf-cutter ant leaf-cutter ant leaf-cutter ant nest leaf-cutter ants and fungus leaf-cutter ant leaf-cutter ant