Mexican Leaf-cutter Ant

Atta mexicana

Atta mexicana photo © by Mike Plagens

Off Puerto Blanco Drive at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Pima Co., Arizona, USA. 20 Dec 2016.

Formicidae -- Ant Family

At the time this observation was made the habitat at Organ Pipe National Monument was extremely dry - less than 75 mm of rain was recorded in many sections during the year of 2016. The leaves being gathered in this case were dead and dying leaves of Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata). Once the leaves are carried under ground they will me masticated and mixed with special salivary secretions, seeded with fungal spores and then maintained at specific moisture and temperature. Resulting fungal nodules will serve as the nutritional food for the workers, queen and larvae (young). This is one of the more spectacular occurrences in Nature.

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Soldier cast of Atta mexicana photo © Michael Plagens

These very large members of the colony serve as protectors along the columns. Notice the spines on the thorax and the posterior corners of the head.

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 22 Dec. 2016.