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Leaf-Cutter Ants: Teamwork printer.gif


Teamwork gets the job done!

Even though they are small in size, the leaf cutter ant has strength in numbers. A full size leafcutter ant colony can have 3 to 4 million workers. One queen ant might produce more than 20 million offspring during her lifetime.

Leaf cutter ants are said to be "the smallest recyclers on the planet." They cut small holes into leaves of plants and trees. Then they pick up these giant pieces of leaf and carry them down into their dens, which can be up to a mile away!

However, leaf-cutter ants are not called leaf eater ants. They do not actually eat the leaf. In the dark, underground dens, the plant material begins to decompose. The ants then eat the fungus that decomposes leaves.

Leaf cutter ants form organized streams down the trunks of trees, through the forest and into their underground colonies. When they are on the move, the ants follow each other in a single-file line. They devour everything in the way, often leaving visible trails through the forest floor. Sometimes the paths are so worn, that they can be mistaken for human-made trails.

They all work together and share the whole colony's food supply.

Leaf cutter ants work hard to strip many of the rainforest's trees of their leaves. But, the ants are actually doing the forest floor a favor by providing the forest floor with rich nutrients from the fungus that decomposes the leaves.

For further exploration, check out these web sites.

Wilderness Classroom's Rainforest Library

Blueboard's Leaf Cutter Ant Page

The Flying Kiwi's Excellent Photos of Leaf Cutters

How should we change our habits to help the planet?

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