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Leaf Cutting Ants

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Leaf Cutting Ants can be extremely destructive to landscape plants, gardens, and some agricultural crops. They live in large colonies of up to 2 million and get their name based on their habit of cutting leaves from plants. They do not eat the leaf fragments they collect, but they take them underground where they use them to create a fungus garden. As the fungus grows, parts of it are eaten by the ants and fed to the larvae. This is their only known food source.

Leaf Cutting Ants are rust to dark-brown in color. Worker ants range from 1/16 to 1/2 inch long. The queen is about 3/4 inch long. Worker ants can be identified by their three pairs of prominent spines on their back and one pair of spines on the back of the head.

Individual colonies can exist for years. With an adequate food supply, colonies may expand to contain over 2 million ants. These colonies are frequently seen on roadsides, fields or wooded areas. Above ground, you will see numerous crater-shaped mounds, 5 to 14 inches high and up to 1 1/2 feet in diameter. Each mound has an entry point. Below ground, the nest consist of several chambers that may reach 15 to 20 feet deep. During the summer, these ants forage mostly at night. The rest of the year, foraging takes place during the day when temperatures are between 45 to 80 degrees. Activity will usually stop on cold, wet or cloudy days.

Control of Leaf Cutting ants is difficult. Because these ants eat only the fungus they cultivate, they do not respond well to baits.

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