Exploring bugs in Central Texas through the eyes of a child

Archive for December, 2013

Leafcutter ants

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A worker ant moving pebbles out to build the nest

   Hi, this is Alex Martin reporting on bugs and today’s report is going to be about LEAFCUTTER ANTS!  Leafcutter ants are named because they cut leaves  with their mandibles (new word for me- it means jaws!) and  they carry them back to the nest and chew them up to help grow their fungus garden underground.  So leafcutter ants are very good gardeners.

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A leafcutter nest my mom recently saw

Leafcutter ants can have massive nests, much bigger than normal ant piles.  They also leave a trail by leaving this smell along the path (my mom says they are called pheromones) that the other ants can follow.  They cut the leaves and then carry them back.  They all walk along the same path so they leave trails on the ground that are easy to see.

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Checking out how ants deal with an obstacle

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You can see the well-worn ant trail in the above photo

Queens are much bigger than the others- around 1 inch (my mom showed me on a ruler) and others can be big protectors or smaller workers.  But they carry leaves much bigger than their bodies.  Overall, these are pretty cool bugs and fun to watch.

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