- The Animal Encyclopedia for Kids

Leafcutter Ant

Leafcutter Ant Facts

Size Up to 0.6 in (16 mm)
Speed Unknown
Weight Unknown
Lifespan Unknown
Food Fungus
Predators Anteater, armadillo, scuttle fly
Habitat South and Central America, the Tropics, the Sub-Tropics
Order Hymenoptera
Family Ants
Scientific name Atta and Acromyrmex
Characteristics Turns leaves into fungus

Main Characteristics

The leafcutter ant isn't a distinct species. It is a non-generic name for 47 ant species that have one thing in common: leafcutter ants use their mouthparts to cut pieces out of leaves and carry them home piggyback.

Leafcutter Ant Leafcutter Ant - Photo: Silke/


What Do Leafcutter Ants Eat?

Leafcutter ants use their mouthparts to cut out pieces of leaf and take these back home on their backs. But they don’t eat them. Leaves? Boring! Instead, they chew their greens to make a paste. From this, their favorite fungus starts to grow - and the ants are very careful to make sure that the fungus thrives. They keep on feeding it with new plant paste, regularly remove other fungus spores, and expand their “fungus farm” by planting individual mushrooms in new places like cuttings.

Leafcutter Ants Need a Lot of Leaves

A colony of two million leafcutter ants will work their way through several dozen tons of foliage every year.

Leafcutter Ant Leafcutter Ant - Photo: Salparadis/Shutterstock

Enemies and Threats

How Do Leafcutter Ants Defend Themselves?

An ant with a leaf over its head? This is the hostile scuttle fly’s favorite sight - right now, the ant is defenseless. That’s why “bodyguards” are often seen riding on the leaves. They spray acid at the scuttle flies to chase them off.

Leafcutter Ant Leafcutter Ant - Photo: Dr. Morley Read/Shutterstock

Leafcutter Ant Leafcutter Ant - Photo: oksankash/Shutterstock


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