Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Atualizei este post para participar do Ecological Day hospedado pelo Caliandra do Cerrado
I update this post to participate on Ecological Day hostes by Caliandra do Cerrado

You can see the trails made by Leafcutter Ants on my garden.

Leafcutter ants are social insects found in warmer regions of Central and South America. The ants get their name from the way they cut leaves from trees, which they then haul back to their nest. The Leafcutter don't eat the leaves, they are species of ants that are fungus farmers, they cultivate (grow) their own food, a type of fungus, in underground gardens. Leafcutter ants comprise two genera — Atta and Acromyrmex — with a total of 39 species, some of which are major agricultural pests. For example, some Atta species are capable of defoliating an entire citrus tree in less than 24 hours.

Trail pheromones: Leafcutter ants lay down an initial trail of pheromones as they return to the nest with food. This trail attracts other ants and serves as a guide. As long as the food source remains, the pheromone trail will be continually renewed.

Did you know? Leaf-cutting ants harvest more greenery in South American forests than any other animal. In fact, within the rain forest, leaf-cutter ants consume almost 20% of the annual vegetation growth! In its lifetime, a colony of these ants may move over 20 tons of soil. You can learn more about Leafcutter ants here, here and here.

As formigas cortadeiras são insetos sociais encontrados exclusivamente nas regiões tropicais e subtropicais das Américas. As formigas cortadeiras compreendem 2 gêneros de formigas cultivadoras de fungos, Atta e Acromyrmex, com um total de cerca de 40 espécies, alguns dos quais são sérias pragas agrícolas. As formigas cortadeiras são insetos desfolhadores e são capazes de desfolhar uma laranjeira inteira em menos de 24 horas. No Brasil, as formigas do gênero Atta são conhecidas popularmente como saúvas e as Acromyrmex como quenquéns. A população de um ninho adulto pode conter até vários milhões de formigas. As formigas cortadeiras não comem as plantas, mas cortam os vegetais e transportam os pedaços para o formigueiro onde esse material é utilizado para o cultivo de um fungo do qual se alimentam.

Trilha de feromônios: As formigas andam em filas, deixando no chão rastros químicos, os feromônios, que carregam odores com o cheiro da colônia a que pertencem, para que elas não se percam. Esses rastros são sua forma de comunicação.

Here you can see the hole of their nests. A mature leafcutter colony can contain more than 8 million ants, mostly sterile female workers. Leafcutter ants build huge nests, sometimes 30 feet across and 20 feet deep, which have several entrances, perhaps hundreds of yards apart. The colony is ruled by a single queen, an ant about the size of a baby mouse. She is 800 times heavier than her smallest worker! The queen may live for up to 20 years. After her death, the colony will fall in to a state of chaos and die along with her.

Photos by Sonia A. Mascaro

As I could not to take photos of the ants, here are some photos I founded on the web.


  1. Sonia, this post is amazing! They ate all that grass in just one day? What are you going to do? Will you have to destroy their nest? The caption says that the queen and, therefore, the colony may live for up to 20 years. How old do you think the nest in your garden is?


  2. Sonia, parabéns pelo post. Um verdadeiro retorno à atividade jornalística. Uma reportagem completa. Eu não sabia à respeito do feromônio e sua utilização pelas formigas. Realmente, uma praga. Quando atacam uma plantação, devastam totalmente. Houve até uma campanha, lembra? "Ou o Brasil acaba com a saúva, ou a saúva acaba com o Brasil". Acho que o pessoal lá do Palácio do Planalto se encarregou de fazer o que a saúva não conseguiu.
    Um beijo, menina

  3. Parece-me que essas "senhoras" são capazes de fazer uns estragos grandes!

  4. Hi Fénix! The leafcutter ants don't eat the grass, they eat another species of plants, like one I show up on my banner. The trails like roads was made by the pheromones and also for the goes and backs of the ants to the plants and to their nest. They work at night! There are many nests around my yard and all around my neighborhood, too. We must to put poisons in their nests. Because that, it's so difficult to maintain a beautiful garden.

  5. Valter, que bom que você gostou da reportagem. Eu me lembro bem deste slogan e concordo totalmente com você! (risos)

  6. Thanks, Sonia, for replying. Geez, sometimes I tyte faster than I can think, don't I? :D I read the caption and, therefore, knew that the ants don't eat the grass, they cultivate their own food in their underground gardens. My question should've been, "Did the ants ruin all that grass in just one day?" ;D

    It's truly amazing how much damage they can cause overnight.

    Você terá que conseguir um urso formigueiro! >8D

  7. Sônia...
    fantásticas as informações e as imagens...também me impressionou o fato do rastro ter sido comido por elas..mas vejo pela tua resposta ao Fénix o que realmente acontece...
    Sou uma apaixonada por jardinagem e formigas sempre foram um pesadelo...mas nunca tinha visto este tipo de estrago...será que dá para vencê-las...Espero que sim...
    abraços Vi

  8. OPS, Fénix, I replying wrong: the Leafcutter don't eat the leaves! They cultivate their own food, a type of fungus, in underground gardens, with those leaves.

    They can ruin all that grass in just one or two nights!

    LOL! I must to have also a TAMANDUÁ (ANTEATER), they are commonly known for eating ants and termites. And believe me, I saw last year an Anteater here in my neighborhood! So huge and very beautiful!

  9. LOL! So urso formigueiro = tamanduá. Everyday we learn something new :)

    Wait a minute... You have tamanduá in your neighborhood! Oh my! Please promise that if you ever see one again you'll take a pic. I love those animals, they are the cutest thing!!! :)

    Next spring (if by then we haven't yet sold our cottage), I will try to take a photo of the black bears that live in the area. It's a family of bears that has built a den near (a few hundred meters away from) our cottage. We had to put all the bird feeders away because the bears love sunflower seeds and the liquid food for hummingbirds and a couple of bears have been seen very close to the houses. Poor things, the bird food is like dessert to them, they don't mean any harm, but, boy, are they scary! And, trying to get to the seeds, they may destroy property unintentionally.

    I'll see what wild life photos I have from the cottage and I'll upload them to my miscellaneous blog for you to see.

    Big hugs.

  10. Amazing to learn all this about ants and anteaters! Nature is incredible! Somehow, you must feel unhappy about destroying these nests, but I understand very well that you want to "save" your garden. If they leave such traces in such short time, what would your garden look like in a couple of weeks? ... or would the ant always follow the same pants? Of course, if you are lucky, the anteater will pass ane take care!

  11. This is fascinating, Sonia...I never heard of LeafCutter Ants before...The sure are industrious!!! Have you ever seen The Queen? Amazing that she is the size of a small mouse...!
    I am going to read more about them on the links you gave us....! Have they done a lot of damage in your garden, my dear? I hope not.

  12. It IS fascinating. I have seen leaf-cutter ants in TV specials, but I thought they ate only leaves from trees, not grass. How can you get rid of those trails in your grass?

  13. Olá Sonia, eu que sou brasileira estou fascinada, porque nunca prestei atenção nas danadinhas, hehehe Bjs!

  14. Sônia meu bem, ficou perfeita, a matéria e as fotos, aliás suas fotos sempre me encantam.
    Elas trabalham dia e noite, e destroem com uma rapidez incrível.
    Sem contar que as quenquéns atacam os pés da gente sem dó nem piedade, são horríveis.
    Vou te pedir licença, e dar uma dica para Vi Leardi, aqui em casa, uso uma solução de água e pimenta do reino, borrifo nas plantas e jogo no chão também, tem dado certo para afastar as danadas. Como o jardim é um pequeno espaço, não é nenhuma agricultura, a pimenta tem dado certo e não uso agrotóxico, mesmo porque tenho verduras no canteiro.
    Parabéns pelo post.
    Um beijo

  15. fascinating - I never heard of such creatures before - would love to see a pic of an ant-eater.

    I thought the kind of ants we have round here were bad enough.

  16. Wow that is an great series of photos. Ants are amazing creatures, those are quite the paths they wore in the grass. We have several different kinds of ants here,but I haven't really done any research on them to see what they are. Great shots. Lloyd and Ranger.

  17. Talk about hardworking insects! Wow. Amazing little things, aren't they?

    Re: the black bears, they aren't as dangerous as you may think. Actually, they are afraid of people. The problem is caused by humans who keep invading bear territories so these poor creatures often find themselves in people's backyards because people are IMMENSELY stupid, you see. Every spring all municipalities ask people to stop feeding birds from late April until October (when the bears are active, especially in April when they are very hungry after hibernation). No one seems to listen. They put all kinds of bird feeders out and the bears go after the smell of seeds, syrup, suet, etc. Anyway, here's some pix I've uploaded for you to see: bears in somebody's backyard and deer in my (cottage) backyard.

  18. Who would have thought ants could be so fascinating?
    I love those trails - they are magical!
    These ants remind me of something from a "Tarzan" movie.
    You always bring us something different! I love it!

  19. That was really interesting!!
    Those hardworking animals are now totally in the wrong place, we can understand that.
    And they probably don`t understand, if you nicely say it to them.
    Pity for your garden and also those animals.

  20. Sonia,

    cheguei atrasado e o Valter disse tudo que eu diria, e claro, ele com muito mais propriedade!
    Ótima postagem/reportagem. Como seu blog é muito lido fora do Brasil, vai dar um enorme IBOPE.


    PS- Agora que a posagem foi feita VENENO nelas, e os ecologistas que não me leiam....


  21. wow...lots of information and lots of ants.

  22. Beautiful images.
    Sadly, a case of uncompatibility.
    The blog world is so small sometimes: I see one of the photos is by Richard Seaman. I found him only a few days ago by sheer chance, googling for some Vienna related topic.

  23. simply amazing! I remember in 3rd grade doing a 6 page essay on "Ants" I was intriqued the work habit they have! I got some chuckles reading your jokes- thanks! Great to catch up with you!

  24. Wow, Sonia, two great posts on these ants -- amazing creatures!! The ants we have here always appear in the spring and eat right through the wood, leaving little piles of sawdust behind them. Those little piles of sawdust tell us where to put the poison; hate to do it, but one must or one's house would not be standing very long. They also create huge anthills that stand 3 feet high! Down in Florida I once witnessed my cousin unknowingly sit on an anthill full of red ants (they bite!) and within seconds her legs were covered with them and hundreds of painful bites. I would really love to see a picture of that queen ant as big as a mouse -- mind-boggling!

  25. Sonia, boa a reportagem sobre a sauva.

    Agente sempre acaba aprendendo algo.

    Eu felizmente não tenho este problema.

    Mas, o que você tem feito para combater as formigas?

    Existe um produto que você pulveriza nelas mas não mata na hora, mas elas ficam contaminadas e uma vez no formigueiro contaminam as demais e acabam morrendo todas ou quase. E aos poucos o formigueiro vai se extinguindo.

  26. Wow! This IS amazing, indeed!

    Sonia, I didn't know you were still doing Ecological Day. I thought it was no more.

    I will see if I have a photo to participate. Thanks for the invitation.


  27. Sonia
    Muito bom ver essa sua postagem sobre as formigas.
    Uma sociedade super organizada.
    Muito interessante as suas informações, adorei o caminho delas feito no gramado, e a sequencia de fotos com elas carregando pedaços de folhas para produzir seu alimento.
    Sonia, está sendo um prazer muito grande hospedar seu Ecological Day no Caliandra, e estamos firmes para o próximo mês.


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