Leaf-cutter ants, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

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The place we stayed in was located by the Sarapiqui river, a little distance away from the nearest town. I got fascinated by these leaf-cutter ants that had cleaned up a fairly large shrub. I wished I had some macro equipment.

And then I got curious – this is what I found on the net.

Leaf-cutter ants have powerful jaws which vibrate a thousand times a second to slice off pieces of leaf. Size for size, their bodies are amazingly powerful, able to carry pieces of leaf that weight at least 20 times their own body weight – that’s the same as a human carrying a one ton load. Like bees, their colonies contain different sorts of workers. Soldier leaf-cutters have huge jaws, strong enough to cut through leather and gardener leaf-cutters work beneath ground and process the pieces of the leaf that the harvesters bring back. The nest also contains a single queen and she lays all the eggs needed to keep the colony supplied with new workers.

It should be noted that these ants cannot eat these leaves. They are used for the cultivation of a fungus which they feed upon.

Sarapiqui, Costa Rica, Aug 2010

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