Leafcutter ant fact file
Get the facts
- 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.