The Leafcutter Ant (Atta sexdens) is a leaf-chewing insect in the Formicidae family of ants.
The Leafcutter Ant is a reddish-black ant with four pairs of spines and a rough exoskeleton. It has six long legs, long antennae, and strong jaws. It has a thorn on the back of its head and on its thorax and abdomen.
It grows to 1.6 centimetres (almost an inch) long.
The Leafcutter Ant is found in South America, Central America, Mexico, and southern United States of America.
It is very strong and can carry up to twenty times its own body weight.
It eats fresh vegetation, such as leaves, flowers, and grass.
The Leafcutter Ant lives in a nest. The nest can be 30 metres (98 feet) across, housing 8 million individuals.
The winged female and male ant leave the nest and mate in the air, then fall to the ground. Once on the ground, the female loses her wings and searches for a suitable underground den to establish a new colony. Only 2.5% of young females (queens) will establish a colony, because most will die.
In a Leafcutter Ant colony, the ants are divided into castes, based on size: minims, minors, mediae, and majors. Minims are the smallest workers. Most workers are minors because they patrol the surrounding area. Mediae forage for food, cut plant leaves with their jaws and bring the leaf pieces back to the nest. Majors are the soldiers and the largest of the Leafcutter Ants.
Location of photographs: Parc Zoologique de Paris in Bois de Vincennes, France
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM