Leafcutter Ants: A Farming Colony The Size of New York City

Next to humans, leafcutter ants form the largest and most complex animal society on Earth. An individual nest consists of 8-9 million individuals (the size of NYC).

Images are from a trip to Manu, which is part of the Amazon Rainforest in the country of Peru. I was mesmerized by a lot during my time there, but it is impossible to articulate the sense of awe I felt while watching the leafcutter ants work in perfect harmony.

Workers travel daily on a path up to a mile away from their nest to cut and bring back leaves over 20x their own body weight (like us carrying a car on our back).

The ants don’t eat the leaves, they are chewed up and harvested for food. The chewed up leaves turn to fungus that the colony eats and lives in.

Fun side note: If it rains or is too hot, work is stopped and they head back to the nest (like humans) until conditions are better. Wild.