A Day in the Life of a Leaf Cutter Ant Queen


Leaf cutter ants are amazing. They are a special kind of ant that farms fungus (mushrooms!) in their underground nests. They are called "leaf cutters" because they have evolved (or changed over time) to have a behavior where they cut leaves from outside their nests and bring them back down into the nest to give the fungus nutrients and to maintain a great environment for the fungus to grow. This is a very good strategy for having a great food source underground!  There are 47 different species of leaf cutter ants around the world. Curious about the types of ants that live near you? Try this DIY at-home science experiment to find out: https://www.explore.biobus.org/challenges/ant-picnic

The type of leaf cutter ant that I'm going to talk about today is called Atta laevigata. The locals here call them "big-bottomed" ants, but that means they are mostly talking about one specific type of ant in the colony: the reproductive female ants. These ants are also called the "queens", or, before they have the longest day of their lives, you might call them "princesses." Scientifically, you could call these ants alates, which means they are members of the colonies of ants with wings who set off to start a new colony by reproducing.