Leaf cutter ants could be the smallest recyclers on the planet. These little ants serve an extremely useful purpose in the rainforest. Leaf cutter ants cut small holes into the leaves of vascular plants. The ants then pick up these giant pieces of leaf and carry them down into their dens.
Once in the burrows, the chunks of leaves are combined with ant waste to turn the leaves into a compost pile that grows fungus. The fungus provides the topsoil with valuable nutrients for plants.
Leaf cutter ants feed on a range of fresh leaves, fruits, flowers, tubers, and stems of plants. Leaf cutter ants aren’t the most thorough critter, though. They show a tendency to move on to a new tree before completely devouring the one they are currently feeding on. Leaf cutter ants travel long distances from the nest in order to find better foliage. The ants move in a single line, devouring everything in the way, often leaving visible trails through the forest floor.
Leaf cutter ants are actually a good source of protein for humans, and they are eaten in parts of Mexico. It is also claimed that the Indians used the jaws of a leaf-cutter as stitches to hold together the edges of a wound.
Hard at work. Leaf cutter ants work diligently to strip many of the rainforest’s trees of their leaves. Yet, the ants are doing the forest floor a service by providing the forest floor with rich nutrients.
Leaf cutter Ants form organized streams down the trunks of trees, through the forest and into their underground colonies. They all work together and share the whole colony’s food supply.
In many areas leaf cutter ant is considered a pest because it damages crops. Often the ants have to compete with humans for vegetation and grazing lands.
The leaf cutter ants’ society is one that very complex and well-structured. They have a well ordered and efficient form of society. Each worker does its specific task for the benefit of the whole colony.
"So, where are we going with these?" Leaf cutter ants carry the pieces of leaf down into their burrows to create nutrient-rich fungus that the ants, soil, and plants all benefit from. They’re the world’s smallest farmers!