What Do Leaf Cutter Ants Eat?


Quick Answer

Leaf cutter ants harvest leaves and turn them into fungus that they consume. Gardener-nurse ants break off chunks of the fungus to feed the colony and larvae.

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Full Answer

Leaf cutter ants feature strong jaws that vibrate to cut pieces of leaves from various plants. They carry the cut leaves back to their colonies in order to produce food from them. The leaf pieces generally weigh about 20 times an ant's body weight, but leaf cutters can easily carry the plantlife with their strong bodies.

The caste system of leaf cutter ants includes queens, workers and drones. Each class works together to maintain a successful colony. The drones are males, and their only job is to help with reproduction. The rest of the ants are females, and their jobs include cutting and moving leaves, pollinating plants and building hives. The queen is the only member of the colony that produces eggs for reproduction.

The natural habitat of leaf cutter ants is forested area, and they mostly inhabit South American regions. The ants harvest leaves far from the nest and find their way back by releasing pheromones along the way. Leaf cutter ants harvest more plants in South American forests than any animal or insect. Over a lifetime, a worker moves about 20 tons of soil.

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