Arthropod

Leaf-cutter ant

Area: 
Central and South America, Mexico, and part of the southern United States
Habitat: 
Rain forest
Food: 
Fungus
Size: 
Up to ½ an inch long; queen ant may be more than 1 inch long
Babies: 
Grub hatches from an egg; grub becomes a pupa before changing to adult form.
Ants use their antennae to “smell” signals from other ants: “Danger!” and “food is this way” each have their own scents.
These Ants Go Marching

 

 

Have you ever followed a trail of ants to see where they are going? Sometimes it is hard to see the little creatures. But leaf-cutter ants stand out because they march along in single file while carrying big chunks of leaves.

 

The ants use their special jaw to “saw” off pieces of plants that they carry back to their underground home. Most people think the ants bit off the leaves to eat them, but they don’t. Leaf-cutter ants eat fungus. They tuck the bits of leaves into their tunnels and wait for the fungus to grow. Then they harvest and eat it. 

 

Most of the ants in a colonyA group of the same kind of animal species living together. are workers, but they often have different jobs depending on their body size. The smallest ants, called minims, grow the fungus food and watch over eggs the queen ant has laid. The very largest worker ants, called majors, go out to collect bits of plants and defend the colonyA group of the same kind of animal species living together. from intruders.