Atta cephalotes leaf cutter 
antLeaf Cutter Ant

Atta Cephalotes

 

World distribution map Atta 
cephalotes leaf cutter ant.

Scientific names

Atta cephalotes (featured), Atta sp, Acromyrmex sp.
 

Distribution

Wide spread across tropical Central and Southern America. Atta cephalotes ranges from southern Mexico to Bolivia and Brazil.

 

Habitat

Colonies are found near tropical forest edges. Their underground nests can be up to 9m deep covering areas of up to one acre. The central mounds can reach 30m width in only a few years. Sub entrances can be found as far as 80 m from the main nest.

 

Diet

Cultivated fungus grown from the leaves of brambles, rose, citrus and oak plants/trees.

 

Colony size

Colonies have been found with up to 10 million workers.

 

Introduction

Leaf cutters ants are the largest and most complex of animal societies found on Earth. There are around 50 different known leaf cutting or fungus growing ant species.

 

These ants are gardeners. They cut and carry leaves back to their nest where they create an environment ideal to grow a special fungus which is used for food and antibiotics.

 

The nests are so large that they build their own ventilation systems to maintain a constant flow of fresh air fresh for the ants and fungus growth.

 

Many in-depth studies and books have been created on this species. These fascinating ants can be seen in museums and zoos around the world.


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Queen

30mm, dull brown,very chubby, monogyn (one queen per colony).

 

These queens have been known to live for up to 15 years. They can lay up to 1000 eggs each day.


Workers

8-12mm. Light brown/orange, with spikes on its back.

 

These ants also have medium workers which are sized in-between the minor and major workers.


Major workers

18mm. Brown, spikes on back, large head and mandibles used for cutting thick vegetation.

 

They largest major workers can weigh several 100 times more than the smallest minor worker.

 

Risk level 3

Workers have strong jaws which allow for a painful bite, major workers can even cut through leather.

 

One colony of these ants can strip a whole tree of its leaves in just one day. They are responsible for destroying more vegetation than any other group of animals, as a result of this they cost the crop industry more than one billion dollars each year.


Pet level 3

Risk declarations must be completed if this species is housed outside of its country of origin. Leaf cutter or fungus growing ants make the ultimate pets. However they are high maintenance and tricky to keep in captivity. They require controlled temperatures, humidity, a constant supply of fresh leaves,  large space to collect leaves from, a suitable tank for fungus growing and a dumping tank. The equipment setup is expensive.

 

Approximately only 10% of leaf cutter queens in actually go on to reign a successful colony when raised in captivity.

 

Its best to see them in the wild or museums and zoos.