There is a high degree of task specialization among the workers. Doubtless we need to learn a great deal more about Atta texana’s biology and complex social systems in order to address the problem. It harvests leaves from over 200 plant species, and is considered a major pest of agricultural and ornamental plants,[2] as it can defoliate a citrus tree in less than 24 hours. The ants in this bed were moving slowly, pushing grains of sand and gravel out of the entrance. By opening and closing tunnels to the chamber they keep the temperature and humidity ideal for fungal growth. Often a red ant bed is distinguished by a circle of bare ground more than three feet across. They prefer introduced cultivars to native plants. We might be poisoning ourselves. These ants are the primary food of the Texas Horned Lizard. And although the soil was dark around the bed, the mounds were whitish, indicating the ants were excavating deep down into the caliche subsoil. When foraging workers feed on the leaves of treated plants they will be killed or repelled. Primarily considered an agricultural pest, it has also been found in homes on occasions foraging on cereals. But none of the ants appeared to be attacking each other. Agricultural and forestry operations are also hard hit. BugGuide also lists many additional common names, including Town Ant, Cut Ant, Parasol Ant, Fungus Ant and Night Ant. Sorry, there are no recent results for popular collections. At the nest, smaller workers receive the leaf fragments and cut them into smaller pieces and pass them on to even smaller specialist ants that chew and macerate these leaf bits into a pulpy substrate. The ants insert those carefully trimmed and anointed leaf bits into the fungal threads. As I searched further I found another kind of ant bed. It is not a persistent invader of structures. Other worker ants in the nest place the green leaf bits in their fungus garden deep underground. We might be poisoning ourselves. I was concerned that this colony was stressed for some reason, so I peered more closely at the ants. The Texas leaf cutter ant is found in south-central Texas from San Antonio to Dallas. The Texas leaf cutting ant, Atta texana (Buckley), has several common names including the town ant, cut ant, parasol ant, fungus ant and night ant. Red ants, more properly called Harvester Ants, are those familiar large ants that excavate low mounds in lawns, fields, dirt driveways and waste areas. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph. These ants are the primary food of the Texas Horned Lizard. The following description of biology and management will focus on the Texas leafcutter ant, also commonly known as the “town ant,” supplemented with information for other leafcutting ant species. As you might expect, they cut the leaves off of plants. Before making the nuptial flight, each prospective queen grabs a wad of fungus and stuffs it in a pouch inside her mouth. Leafcutting ants typically are reddish-brown in color, with 11-segmented antennae that lack a club, three pairs of spines on the thorax, and a two-segmented petiole (Fig. Then she lays eggs to begin the new colony. Atta texana (Buckley) is a fungus ant commonly called the Texas leaf-cutter ant because it is found mainly in south central and eastern regions of the state. Not so for the Leaf-cutters’ fungus. Adjusting the size of their nest entrance holes helps keep the temperature there a constant 70°F, which makes fungus grow … I found several ant beds. [3],, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 22 March 2020, at 21:06. In Leaf-cutter Ants, the different castes are also of different sizes. It has been a long, hot summer. The vesicles contain nutritive substances such as simple sugars and amino acids. The ant has a narrow waist and is rusty brown in color. Perhaps it was too hot for them to do much. Leaf cutting ants live in large colonies of up to 2 million. Specialist worker ants deep in the colony cut the leaf sections into smaller bits, lick them, chew the edges to a pulp, deposit a droplet of anal fluid on them, then insert the tiny bits into the Leaf-cutter Ants’ garden. As the fungus digests the leaf matter, it in turn produces nearly microscopic vesicles at the tips of the threads. Thus by cultivating the fungus, the ants have bypassed the need to produce digestive enzymes in their own guts to break down complex foodstuffs. Columnist: Brush Country Backyard. [1], The nuptial flights of A. texana synchronize in regions; the virgin queens and males fly at night. “Our advantage — and responsibility — lies in the fact that we can think about these matters and they cannot.”, Texas Master Naturalist It also occurs in scattered locations in northwestern Louisiana. As fascinating as Leaf-cutter Ants are, we humans are not pleased at having our personal gardens denuded of leaves, often overnight. However, the ants do not consume the leaves. Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.

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