Leaf Cutter Ants

Acromyrmex Versicolor
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What do leaf cutters look like?

leaf cutter ant moving a leaf outside a phoenix home

Leaf cutter ants have legs that are longer than their bodies, 1/6 to 1/2 inch long. They are dark brown to rust brown and have two nodes between the abdomen and thorax. Their large heads and long spines make it easy to identify these ants.

Life cycle of leaf cutter ants

Complete metamorphosis

Leaf cutter ants are social insects with eggs developing into larvae, pupa, and a caste member: queen, workers (nursers and leaf collectors), soldiers, and drones. Females collect fungus and tuck into pockets in their head then leave the nest to find a drone. This swarming process most often occurs from April to June. Once she has mated she starts a nest and lays eggs. She will be the queen of the new colony and will produce up to 1,000 eggs per day. The colony will depend on the workers to select appropriate leaves to bring back to the colony. They will travel long distances for food creating distinct trails from the mound to food sources. Other workers ride on the leaves protecting the ant carrying the leaf from flies that may attack. Workers chew the leaves to a pulp-like material that sprouts fungus for the ants to eat. Colonies will have up to 5 fungus gardens growing at a time. Nests can go as deep as 8 feet or more below ground and reach horizontally as far as an acre. Colonies may contain 1,000,000 workers or more.

Habits of leaf cutter ants

  • Diet: Leaf and other vegetation
  • Activity: Forage at night especially from May to September
  • Preferred Climate: Summer time temperatures
  • Defense: Soldier ants and rider ants
  • Cautions: Painful bite and destroy vegetation
  • Home Invasion: Mounds of the leaf cutter ant can be found in shaded areas that have moisture in the soil: under trees in washes, planters, and drainage areas. The mounds will be clear of any vegetation except for the leaves you may see worker ants carrying into the mound with distinct trails coming from the mound to food sources.

Are leaf cutter ants dangerous?

Leaf cutter ants have a very powerful bite but they do not have a sting. 

Where do leaf cutter ants nest?

Leaf cutter ants usually nest in brushy areas in deep, well-drained sandy soil. 

Helpful hints for leaf cutter ants

To discourage leaf cutter ant activity, you should:

Interesting facts about the leaf cutter ant

Leaf cutter ants can carry leaves that are 30 times their body weight.

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