Subject: What Is This Insect?
May 11, 2013 7:46 am
We first noticed these bugs yesterday. They were all over the ground in little holes. Some of them have wings and some are wingless. There were hundreds of them. I have searched the internet and cannot find anything that resembles this insect. Is it an ant or wasp? I was wondering if this insect stings or bites. Thank you so much!!
These are Texas Leaf Cutter Ants, Atta texana, or some other Leafcutting Ant in the genus Atta. You are witnessing the swarming activity. The winged ants are alates, the sexually reproductive queens and kings that will fly off and mate so they can begin a new colony. The individuals without wings are the nonreproductive workers. Leafcutting ants are eaten in Mexico where they are considered a delicacy. According to BugGuide: “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.”