Other Common Names
town ant, cut ant, parasol ant, fungus ant and night ant. Also leafcutter ant and leafcutting ant.
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Atta texana (Buckley)
Orig. Comb: Myrmica (Atta) texana Buckley 1860
2 spp. n. of Mex. (2nd sp. in AZ)
Worker ants range from 1/16 to 1/2 inch long. The queen is about 3/4 inch long.
Photo of all castes
(note, female reproductive has larger head than male) - Forestry Images
Atta texana Photos
- Alex Wild, The Diversity of Insects
Prefer sandy soils for nesting.
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.
In addition to collecting leaves, they also occasionally collect berries:
Walter et al. (1938) reports that about 50 species of insects and arachnids have been found within the nests in association with this ant. (1)
Per Walter et al. (1938)(1)
; Spangler (1962); Moser (1963)(2)
; Waller & Moser (1990) (3)
, beetle nest associates of A. texana
*same genus, but actual sp. is Oosternum attacomis
Other than the two cetoniine scarabs, the other spp. appear to be obligate Atta nest associates, in at least part of their life cycle.
Click on the thumbnail (then on the Info tab) for more information on each species.
Leaf cutting ants live in large colonies of up to 2 million.
Buckley, S.B. 1860. The cutting ant of Texas. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 12: 233-236. (4)
Krantz, G.W. & J. Moser. 2012. A new genus and species of Macrochelidae (Acari: Mesostigmata) associated with the Texas leaf cutting ant, Atta texana (Buckley) in Louisiana, USA. International Journal of Acarology 38(7): 576-582.
Moser, J.C. 1963. Contents and structure Atta texana
nest in summer. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 56(3): 286–291. (2)
Moser, J.C. 1967. Mating activities of Atta texana (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Insectes Sociaux Bulletin, Vol. 14(3): 295-312.
Moser, J.G. 1983. Town ant. In History, status and future needs for entomology research in southern forests. Proc. 10th Anniv. E. Texas Forest Entomol. Seminar. Oct. 6-7, 1983. Kurth Lake, Texas.
Moser, J.C. & S.E. Neff. 1971. Pholeomyia comans (Diptera: Milichiidae) an associate of Atta texana: larval anatomy and notes on biology. Sonderdruck aus Bd. 69: 343-348
Mueller, U.G. et al. 2011. Evolution of cold-tolerant fungal symbionts permits winter fungiculture by leafcutter ants at the northern frontier of a tropical ant–fungus symbiosis. PNAS.
Sen, R., H.D. Ishak, T.R. Kniffin, U.G. Mueller. 2010. Construction of chimaeric gardens through fungal intercropping: a symbiont choice experiment in the leafcutter ant Atta texana
(Attini, Formicidae). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 64: 1125-1133. Full PDF
Spangler, P.J. 1962. A new species of the genus Oosternum and a key to the U.S. species (Coleoptera: Hydrophilidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 75: 97-100.
Waller, D.A. & J.C. Moser. 1990. Invertebrate enemies and nest associates of the leaf-cutting ant Atta texana
(Buckley) (Formicudae, Attini). Pp. 256-273 In
: Applied Myrmecology: A World Perspective. (3)
Walter, E.V., L. Seaton, and A.A. Mathewson. 1938. The Texas leaf-cutting ant and its control. USDA Circular No. 494: 1-18. (1)
Warter, S.L., J.C. Moser. & M.S. Blum. 1962. Some correlations between the foraging behavior of common nighthawks, Cbordeiles minor (Forester), and the swarming behavior of two species of ants, Atta texana (Buckley) and Iridomyrmex pruinosis (Roger). Sciences, 25: 42-46.
Weber, N.A. 1972. Gardening Ants, The Attines. Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, Vol, 92, Philadelphia, 146 pp.
Woodruff, R. E. and Cartwright, O.L. 1967. A review of the genus Euparixia
with descriptions of a new species from leaf-cutting ants in Louisiana (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). Proceedings of the United States National Museum 123(3616): 1-21. (5)