The leaf-cutting or fungus-growing ants are distributed from northern Texas to central Argentina. These ants are injurious since they cut the green vegetation from trees, shrubs and crops, and carry it into the nest, where they cultivate fungi on it. They have been known to denude a tree or ornamental plants in one night. It has been estimated they do $1 billion damage per year in North and South America today, these ants still cause millions of dollars in crop losses in many South American countries. Although primarily an agricultural pest, this insect on occasion may invade the home for cereals. In the United States, the Texas leaf-cutting ant, Atta texana , occurs in Texas and Louisiana. This ant is believed to cause a total yearly loss of $5 million in the United States (unison services. 1998).
There are about 9,500 named species of ants. These ants are divided into 16 sub families and 300 genera, all which belong to the family called Formicidae, the family of ants (Hoyt. 1996). The leaf cutting ant belongs to the genus called Atta. There are fifteen different species of Atta and all are limited to the new world (Holldobler & Wilson, 1994).
The leaf-cutter ant looks pretty much like a regular ant in North America except that it is a little bigger than most ants. Looking at the ant in the untrained eye a person usually perceives that it is a primitive organism. Looks can be deceiving. The leaf-cutter ant is a complex superorganism... [continues]
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