Leafcutter Ants

Leafcutter Ants are any of the forty seven species of ants belonging to the genera Atta and Acromyrmex that chew leaves. They are tropical ants that grow fungi that inhabit the southern United States, Central America and South America. The crops are grown in underground gardens that can be enormous. The cultivated fungus is completely dependent on the care of the ant and is the food of all the members of the colony, being the only food of the queen, the larvae and other members of the colony that remain in the nest; what turns the relationship into an obligated mutualism. The workers who cut leaves, in addition, ingest sap from the plants while cutting their segments.

Leafcutter Ants - Often tiny ants sit on the leaves loaded by a working ant, to give protection against predatory insects.

The cutters go up in mass to the trees and they kneel their jaws on the leaves and cut sections. The columns of haulers can be seen with large pieces of vegetation raised high. They can attack many plants but constantly change the plant, apparently preventing the total removal of leaves and the death of trees, thus avoiding a negative ecological effect taking into account their high number of individuals.

Leafcutter Ants - worker (L) and minima (R)

The role of the different species of leafcutter ants in natural conditions is to stimulate the growth of plants and enrich the soil; if these insects are exterminated, there would be a significant change in the structure of forests and pastures, including the extinction of some species of plants and animals.