|Leaf Cutter Ant
The leaf cutter ant (Atta rodona) is a fungus-growing ant that inhabits tropical regions like Manu. Groups of these ants are often seen at night dismantling area vegetation leaf by leaf. During a night "raid," a worker leaf cutter ant precisely cut leaves of bushes or trees into tiny pieces with its mouth and then carries the cut portions back to the colony's underground nest. When carrying a cut leaf, the worker ant holds it above its head, giving these insects the nickname of umbrella or parasol ants. The leaf cutter ant does not eat the leaves, but actually feeds them to a mold-like fungus hidden in the depth of its nest. The fungus digests the leaves, producing "knob" that the ants can eat.
Leaf cutter colonies typically number two million worker ants and have one queen whose main purpose is to lay eggs. Before laying eggs, the queen takes a pellet of the fungus to prepare a nesting area for her eggs. She cultivates the fungus with her own body waste. Once the nest is ready, the queen lays approximately 30,000 eggs each day.
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