Leafcutter Ants are typically found in tropical regions of Central America, however, some species reach into North America as far north as the American Southwest. The lack of humidity in that area is not a problem for these genera that thrive in hot weather. They live in large colonies underground and can be seen trekking across branches, tree trunks, and on the ground, carrying large pieces of leaves back home. The individual ant chews off a portion of leaf that it can carry, often more than three times larger than itself. It hoists the leaf above its head using its jaws. The leaf tends to cast shade onto the ant carrying it, like a tiny umbrella, rendering the nickname "parasol ants". It races back to the colony to deliver its offering. The leaf will be chewed into a pulpy mass that makes a perfect breeding ground for a particular fungus that the ants eat. The fresh leaf matter is necessary to sustain the fungal diet.
Colonies can contain up to 2 million worker ants. Workers do not sting, but they can bite. Colonies have multiple points of entry/exit and inhabitants care for multiple queens. A large colony can span over 20,000 sq feet (2,000 sq meters) underground. On the hottest days of the year, most harvesting work may be done at night, but daytime activity is normal for all species.
General Characteristics Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Leafcutter Ants may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Leafcutter Ants. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.