Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Texas Insects

(Atta texana)

So enthralled with watching this army of ants at work, I only took this one picture of the pile of leaf pieces
 left outside the entrance to their tunnel.
These ants were following the trail to home,
carrying pieces of leaves that, as you can see here, 
were larger than the ants themselves. 
It was quite a sight.

When I looked them up, I was amazed at what I learned. 
These are fungus ants, found mainly 
in the south central and eastern parts of Texas. 
Basically, the worker ants bring pieces of leaves to the nest,
other worker ants chew them up into little pieces,
yet other worker ants carry them to the appropriate chambers up to 8 feet down (everyone has their own job to do),
where the chewed up leaves turn into a fungus.
They are cultivated fungus gardens for food,
with proper venting, and everything!
It's necessary to farm the gardens properly,
because, according to What's That Bug,
the population of one colony can number up to
2 million ants!
Their underground habitat can spread out to over 1/2 acre,
rendering them difficult to manage
and presenting a large problem to farmers,
who lose an estimated
$5 million annually to these hungry critters!
Homeowners aren't too crazy to share space with them, either!


Leora said...

I always admire someone who can enjoy ants. Yes, I would be the not too happy to have ants homeowner as well.

I love the poetic format you gave to your prose.

Rambling Woods said...

How interesting...I love the folks at BugGuide and Whats that helpful. I had never heard of these ants and it is amazing, but I can see why the farmers wouldn't like them. I found a blog devoted just to ants and I can't remember the name. Maybe it was the Ant Blog...Thank you for posting to Nature Notes... Michelle

walk2write said...

I used to enjoy watching ants at work, up close, until I moved to Florida and met the fire ant! They're all pretty amazing, though, and I have to admit that even the bothersome fire ants do me a favor by keeping my garden beds aerated. They do make me want to garden in stilts:)

Just Ramblin' said...

What a fascinating time you had and how interesting to learn about these ants. I wonder how many others would have stopped and observed what was taking place. I'm sure they must be very frustrating to the farmers. Nola

Greenearth said...

What amazing ants.

Bob Bushell said...

A beautiful image.

Linda said...

Hi Karen,
Fascinating photo and story of the Leaf-cutter Ant...First time I heard of the name, which makes it all the more exciting for me! They sure are brilliant little critters and hard workers....Thanks for sharing and have a great day too!! Cheers, Linda :)

Stephanie said...

Wow that's one HUGE colony of ants. I never realized the size of an underground tunnel they can create. I don't think many people are too fond of ants.

Carver said...

What an interesting post. Amazing what the ants can accomplish.

Anonymous said...

Nature is fascinating, isn't it? I love the pile of leaves!

Audrey said...

Ants are really amazing!

Carrie P. said...

Well those ants are prepared with that pile. Interesting post.

Denise said...

Ants are fascinating, such clever and industrious little things. Great shot and a very interesting post. Thank you for sharing the What's That Bug link.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Karen: Neat capture of the ants and a great story. I saw similar red ants in Mexico and they had worn a path in the dirt.

EG Wow said...

I think the more I know about insects the more amazed I am. One colony of Texas leaf-cutter ants can have as many as 2 million? WOW!

Living In Williamsburg Virginia said...

Wow, what cooperation and work ethic. Great photo and interesting lesson.

Darryl and Ruth : )

Lily Hydrangea said...

This is fascinating stuff KaHolly.
& doesn't that seem like a gigantic tunnel for those little ants to be using too?

Marvin said...

I remember "Cut Ants" from my days growing up on the Texas coast. My Dad was always trying to get something to grow in our mostly sand yard and leaf cutter ants were his nemesis. They could strip a small shrub of all its leaves overnight.