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Leafcutter ants

Atta cephalotes

Leafcutter ants on rope work at Paignton Zoo
IUCN Conservation Status –
Least Concern
Extinct In The Wild
Class: Insects
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae

You can see our colony of leafcutter ants in actions in our Bugs at Home exhibit.

This species of leafcutter ant is commonly found on the rainforest floor or in their underground nests across Central and South America.

These incredible ants are gardeners. They cut and carry certain leaves back to their nest where they create an environment ideal to grow a special fungus, which is used for food and antibiotics!

Interesting facts!

  • One of the most complex animal societies on the planet, a single colony of ants can contain up to five million members!
  • This particular species was one of the earliest formally classified ants, first described by Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus in 1758.
  • In each colony of leafcutter ants there is only one large queen ant, who is the only ant in the nest able to reproduce.


There are currently no specific conservation measures in place to protect leafcutter ants as they are found in large numbers across their range. Due to their quick ability to strip crops of their leaves, they are often considered pests.