THE LEAFCUTTER ANTS OF COSTA RICA
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Looking out on our patio at the Arenal Observatory Lodge, I thought I might have had a few too many beers the previous night as I watched flowers go marching by. Closer inspection revealed a more artistic group of leafcutters parading by with a plethora of bright flowers. Teamwork is the hallmark as a group of cutters has just finished cutting trough the stem and is preparing a leaf for the trip back to the nest. In the Rainforest, cutters utilize a wide variety of trees and plants to provide the leaves upon which their fungal gardens subsist. They also eat leaf sap, plant nectar and evidently like a juicy berry now and then. Actually, we found this soldier carrying it back to the nest. I guess this Sumo ant is the tractor-trailer version of the smaller worker caste.
HOME AT LAST !!
To put a leafcutter's work into human terms, the trip from the spot where the leaf was cut and carried back to the nest would be the size and weight equivalent of a running thirty miles at a four minute/mile pace while carrying 500 lbs on your back! No wonder she looks tired as she completes the journey and is just about to enter the opening to the nest.
© Phillip Slosberg 2009
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