Leafcutter ant fact file

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  • The scientific name for leafcutter ants is Atta cephalotes.
  • An average nest of leafcutter ants contains over 5 million ants
  • Leafcutter ants are also known as 'parasol' ants because of the way they carry leaves above their heads.
  • There are 3 types of leafcutter ant: the queen, soldier and worker.
  • There are 5 castes of worker ant: foragers, gardeners, those that chop up leaves, tiny ants that distribute leaf bits to the fungi and those called minimae that tend the fungus.
  • Ants of different types vary in size, from the large-jawed soldier ants to the tiny minimae workers.
  • Leafcutter ants secrete a chemical trail so they can always find the nest.
  • The ants are capable of carrying over 50 times their own body weight.
  • Leaves brought back to the nest are used as a fertiliser. Their special fungus-food grows in this.
  • The ants tend a fungus 'garden' in the nest and this fungus is the only food source for the ants.
  • The ants will travel several hundred metres in search of the right kind of leaves. This is a long way for something so tiny.
  • Wild ants collect leaves from all layers of the forest, from the floor to the upper canopy.
  • Each queen leafcutter ant can lay up to 30,000 eggs each day.
  • If the queen ant dies, all the other ants die too. She lives at the heart of the colony and lays all its eggs.
  • A leafcutter ant's nest can be up to the size of a small car.