Texas Leaf Cutter Ant – Atta texana (Buckley)
August 24, 2009
Found a pile of leaf confetti at the base of a Shumard Oak in my yard, followed the trail for about 20 yards then it went under the fence. There were no ants, found out they operate at night and took some pictures this morning around 4:30. They may just defoliate my tree! Looked them up on the Aggie Extension site and believe that I have correctly identified them.
We agree with your identification of a Texas Leaf Cutter Ant. BugGuide also lists many additional common names, including Town Ant, Cut Ant, Parasol Ant, Fungus Ant and Night Ant. Leafcutter Ant and Leafcutting Ant are also used. BugGuide also states: “Food In Texas these ants damage weeds, grasses, plum and peach trees, blackberry bushes and many other fruit, nut and ornamental plants as well as several cereal and forage crops. The ants do not eat the leaf fragments they collect, but take them into their underground nest where they use the material to raise a fungus garden. As the fungus grows, certain parts of it are eaten by the ants and fed to the larvae. This fungus is their only known source of food.Leaf cutting ants will attack pine trees but ordinarily they do little damage when other green plants are available. During the winter when green plant material is scarce, seedling pines are frequently damaged in parts of east Texas and west central Louisiana. Where ants are abundant, it is almost impossible to establish natural pine reproduction. In such sites, young pine seedlings often are destroyed within a few days unless the ants are controlled before planting.
Remarks Leaf cutting ants live in large colonies of up to 2 million.“ We are also linking to the Forest Pests website that contains much information including this: “Biology – The ants have a mating flight in May or June. After mating, the females establish nests beneath the soil and become the queens of the colonies. Worker ants carry the cut foliage and other vegetative material back to the nest, where it is used to culture the fungus that is their primary food.“