Monday, December 7, 2009

The leafcutters

I've just been learning about the fascinating leaf cutter ant.  We saw a trail of them along the road and crossing the sidewalk this morning.  Hundreds of them, many carrying pieces of leaf larger than they are.  I looked them up and I find that they are carrying the pieces leaves to underground chambers of their nest where they cultivate a type of fungus on the leaf for food.  The live in subtropical and tropical climates and the colonies include four different types of ants, of various sizes, each with its own job.  I saw only two sizes: the medium sized ants that carry the leaves and some smaller ones that go in the line to protect the carriers.

Aren't they amazing? Who knew that they were farmers?  Who knew their lives were so complex?

It may be that these guys were in the process of moving some of their cultivated leaves from one nest to another.  They were bringing them out of this little drain hole, marching down the gutter and across the sidewalk down to what looks like another nest.  What an incredible thing to see!

I'm sorry to report though, that this afternoon when I went back to take some photos there were very few left in line.  I don't know whether this means their job was finished or if they were disturbed by a broom or even worse, someone with insecticide.  I'll be keeping an eye on them to see what transpires and to learn more about them.

1 comment:

  1. Leafcutter ants have always fascinated me with their big leaf sails. Imagine seeing them for real. And maybe 'for real' isn't as ideal as all that. Part of me hopes the insecticide wasn't the answer...part of me understands if they're in someone's home. It's not always easy living with nature.


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