Dr. Brady Barr finds a trail of leafcutter ants in this week’s Creature Feature.
Because they carry cut leaves above their heads like little umbrellas, leafcutter ants are also known as parasol ants. And did you know that a leafcutter ant can carry almost ten times its own weight? That would be like the average eight-year-old carrying a cow!
Leafcutter ants carry the leaf pieces they cut back to their underground nests. The leaves are chewed into a pulp, and afterwards a special fungus grows on them. The leafcutter ants use this fungus, not the leaves, as a crop for their colony to eat!
You can also think of these ants as little farmers with five different jobs: foragers, gardeners, choppers, tiny ants that distribute leaf bits to the fungus, and even smaller ants called minimae that tend to the fungus.