Leaf-cutting Ant

Atta cephalotes

The highly social leaf-cutting ant is named for its habit of cutting and carrying leaves back to its underground nest. The ants do not eat the leaves. Instead, the leaf fragments are used as compost to grow fungus gardens that feed the ants.

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A leaf-cutting ant colony has a single queen that lays all the eggs, and up to eight million workers that tend the garden, forage for leaves, and defend the nest.

  • A forager’s jaws vibrate a thousand times a second to shear off pieces of a leaf.
  • A leaf-cutting ant can carry leaf fragments that are 20 times their own body weight.
  • Leaf-cutting ants build huge nests—up to 50 feet across and 16 feet deep.

Fact File

where to see themWhere to see them: World of the Insect
lifespanLifespan: Worker – 1 to 2 yrs, Queen – 15 to 20 yrs
ecological roleEcological Role: Leaf pruner and decomposer
habitatHabitat: Tropical forest and fields
dietDiet: Fungus

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