Guardian Nature School Team Contact Blog Project Noah Facebook Project Noah Twitter

A global community of nature enthusiasts
photographing and learning about wildlife

Join Project Noah!
nature school apple icon

Project Noah Nature School visit nature school

Leaf-cutter ants

Atta cephalotes


Atta cephalotes is one many species of leafcutter ant. This species is part of the Attini tribe (the fungus-growing ants). A single colony of ants can contain up to 5 million members, and each colony has one queen that can live more than 15 years. The colony comprises different castes, and each caste has a different job to do. Soldiers are the largest of the ants (except for the queen) and they often stand guard at the entrance of the nest, or will even go on scouting missions to watch for predators. Workers, who are all female, are divided into two types, media and minima, that both have big jaws and sharp teeth. Media workers are the larger of the two, and they cut the leaves and bring them back to the nest. These ants are able to navigate to the source of leaves by following the pheromone scent of the other ants ahead, a process known as ‘tandem running’. Once the media workers have deposited the material into the nest, slightly smaller workers called ‘minima workers’ cut up the leaves into small pieces and then feed it to a fungus they cultivate. They also cover the leaf in antibacterial saliva which stops other types of fungus growing. A special caste of workers manage the colony's rubbish dump. These ants are excluded from the rest of the colony. If any wander outside the dump, the other ants will kill or force them back. Rubbish workers are often contaminated with disease and toxins, and live only half as long as their peers. The smaller ‘minima’ workers feed the entire colony of ants. These minima workers also act as guards and follow the media workers or hitch a ride on the leaf they’re carrying to the source of the leaves and attack small parasitoids called phroid flies. The queen is larger than the other females and is winged. Her role is to give birth to workers. The females can be workers or soldiers, and cannot produce workers but instead produce males only. Males are also winged, and their only role is to inseminate the virgin queen. The leaves that the worker ants cut are not for their consumption, as it is toxic to ants. Instead, the minima ants feeding it to a fungus that they farm. (info from the web)




These particular ones, were collecting flowers of Erythrina sp

Species ID Suggestions

Sign in to suggest organism ID


It Certainly is an amazing insect, Thanks for the comment-

MehmetKaraca 8 years ago


Thanks for all your comments

Mark Ridgway
Mark Ridgway 8 years ago

Beautiful work JS. Congrats on 2k !!

Awesome spotting for a awesome milestone :-) congrats Jonathan on another great spotting and also for the 2000th one and thanks for sharing

LarryGraziano 8 years ago

Great info. Congrats on this wonderful mile mark Jonathan!

Diaz José Miguel
Diaz José Miguel 8 years ago

Buenos colores

Thanks Sergio. Sure I will keep on going....

Sergio Monteiro
Sergio Monteiro 8 years ago

Congratulaciones, Jonathan. 2,000 is a beautiful number. Please, keep showing us the wonders of Costa Rica.

Jonathan Sequeira
Spotted by
Jonathan Sequeira

Monte Verde, Provincia Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Spotted on Dec 23, 2010
Submitted on Dec 12, 2014

Related Spottings

Leafcutter Ant Saúva Hormiga culona Leafcutter

Nearby Spottings

Trychopeplus laciniatus Ermitaño Verde Rufous-eyed Stream Frog tubú
Noah Guardians
Noah Sponsors
join Project Noah Team

Join the Project Noah Team