Common Name: Leaf Cutting Ant
Range: Around10,000 ant species available around the world. Normally they are especially widespread in the tropical forests. Leaf Cutter Ants are available in the South western United States, South and Central America They are available all through the Costa Rica. The leaf cutter ant usually lives in the forest floor of the rainforest and they climb to the canopy layer to cut some leafs with its powerful scissors like mouth. They are available in large numbers in the national Parks of Costa Rica.
Size: These Ants can be from 2mm to 25 mm (0.08 – 1 inch). These are available in different types and they vary in sizes. These can be found with the large-jawed soldier ants to the tiny workers.These ants are in black color, the workers are sized1-. 5 inches and their males sizes about 0.5 inches.
Diet : Leaf cutter Ants are Omnivore. They cut leaves or grass with their strong jaws and store them underground to grow their own fungus them which they eat.
Average life span: Each leaf cutting ant group has a queen, that has a lifespan of 10-15 years
Habitat: Leaf-cutter Ants stay in the nests in the forests and in agricultural areas, mostly in humid areas. In Costa Rica, they are available everywhere. These can be seen in the natural reserves and national parks like, Carara National Park, Corcovado National Park, Manuel Antonio National Park, Arenal Volcano National Park, Children’s Eternal Rainforest Reserve, Cahuita National Park, Santa Rosa National Park, and La Amistad International Park.
Breeding/Reproduction: The queen ant produces eggs in the nest and these eggs ultimately emerge and develop into larvae. These larvae pupate and grow to be adults. Every female tries to mate with several male ants because she has to gather 300 sperms to make a colony.
Leaf cutting Ants are found in a range of Central and South America. A thousand of individuals of these ants live in Costa Rica so it can be said that they it the most dominant invertebrate found in Costa Rica. The colonies include males, females, the queen and workers. But only the queen has the power of reproducing it can produce a thousand of eggs daily. But most of these offspring become workers only a small number of eggs are those from which males and females are formed.
As the rainy season starts the males and females indulge in nuptial flight this is the only time when mating takes place and males die after this. The females who are able to store 300 or more sperms become queens. A female starts a colony by first digging the soil to form nest. The female leaf cutting ant uses a little fungus brought from the old nest to form this new colony. But only 2.5 % females are successful in storing enough sperms for forming a colony. Others may die before the eggs hatch.
Each colony of leaf cutting ant is called as castes. These ants do not have wings. The workers have the greatest number in a caste and they are soldiers who protect the queen. Some workers are found inside the nest of the leaf cutter ant and these workers work inside the colony.
The queens are the largest in the colony, while the males are bigger than the workers. The size of the queen is 22 mm, males are 18 mm and the workers are just 2-14 mm.
These leaf cutting ants are very useful for the plants as they cut the leaves with fungus on them. But they are also very harmful as well because they may cut the leaves with some useful fungus. The fungus is not always harmful to the plants it has some useful aspects as well.
The ants cut the leaves which have fungus on them and use them for cultivating their colonies. They may go 250 meters away from their nests in order to called colorful flowers and leaves. They grow the fungus inside their nests and they feed on this fungus.
For the fungus garden to be good they should not contain pesticides because the pesticides cause diseases which are harmful for the leaf cutter ant colony. They are often found in rainforests of Costa Rica. They are always found on the places where there are a lot of plants and farms.
Although the leaf cutting ant is quite adaptable to the habitat but if many changes are made in their habitat they can’t survive. Deforestation is a great threat to these species. They are also killed by human beings because they damage their farms. They should be protected.
An average nest of leaf cutting ants contains over 5 million ants
There are 3 types of leaf cutter ant: the queen, soldier and worker.