Leaf Cutter Ants
1. Q. I have an ant problem that I hope you can help me with. I have ants on my property in the Hill Country that don't sting but, instead, take all of the leaves off of my trees and shrubs. Someone has told me that these nocturnal beasts are called leaf-cutter (cutting?) ants. What can I do to control these pests before they kill-by-defoliation every living plant that I own?
A. Some folks think they have a problem with fire ants but leaf cutting ants ARE a formidable foe and difficult, if not impossible, to control. The Texas leaf cutting ant has several common names including the town ant, cut ant, parasol ant, fungus ant and night ant as well as some which cannot be printed. This insect can cause extensive damage in a very short time. It is a frustrating insect because of its unrelenting attack on trees and shrubs, but it is also one of the most interesting insects because of its complex life style. The leaf cutting ant lives in large colonies that may exceed 2 million ants, and is one of nature's original gardeners. Leaf cutting ants share the sophisticated habit of growing a fungus garden with certain termites in Africa and Asia and certain wood boring beetles. The leaf cutting ant removes leaves and buds from 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, but take them into cavities where they use the material to raise a fungus garden. These ants have highly refined habits and raise one particular type of fungus. Certain workers attend the fungus garden at all times and weed out or destroy other types of fungi that start to grow on the material. 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. Orthene dust is the recommended chemical control.
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