What Do Leafcutting Ants Look Like?
Leafcutting ants also known as cut ants, parasol ants, fungus ants, night ants, and town ants, are a dark brown or rust-red color. These ants can number into the millions in one colony and can be anything from 1/16 to 1/2 an inch long, with the queen getting up to 3/4 of inch in size. A distinct physical feature of the leafcutter ant is the three pairs of prominent spines on their back (thorax) and a pair of spines on the back of their head.
Where Do Leafcutting Ants Nest?
Leafcutting nests are usually seen in open fields, in forest or brushland, or along roadsides where the soils are deep, well-drained loom or sand. These nests can be 50 to 80 feet across. Its size depends upon the age of the colony and the availability of food. On the surface of the ground the leafcutter nest is signified by multiple crater shaped mounds. These above-ground mounds are anywhere from 5” to 14” high and 1-1/2 feet wide. The nest itself is located underground and is made up of multiple chambers that can reach up to 15 to 20 feet in depth. The chambers are the focal point of the nest. The nest is interconnected by three types of tunnels; narrow tunnels connecting the chambers, vertical tunnels reaching up to the mound openings on the surface and foraging tunnels leading outward away from the nest as far as 500 feet. This complex structure allows for good air circulation and a great escape for the inhabitants.
What Do Leafcutting Ants Eat?
Contrary to popular belief, leafcutting ants do not eat leaves. They are, however, quite destructive to plants and trees such as plums, blackberry bushes, peach trees, grasses, and many other fruit, ornamental, and nut plants when they cut the leaves from them. These leaves are then carried back to the nest where they are used underground in the ant’s fungus garden. This fungus is the source of food for the entire ant colony.
Are Leafcutting Ants Dangerous?
Leafcutting ants are not dangerous to people or animals, but they are most assuredly destructive to trees, grasses, shrubs, and other leaf-bearing plants. Their reliance on leaves to produce their fungus for food makes them a formidable foe and a danger to any plant that they deem a source for those leaves.