Learn more about Atta cephalotes from the Encyclopedia of Life
Santa Rita, Costa Rica
By Bence Máté
Leaf-cutter ants are very abundant in lowland forests
throughout Costa Rica. Large nests built below the
ground provide a home for up to five million insects.
Day and night, ants travel as far as several hundred
feet to transport leaf fragments back to their chambers.
The carrying is performed by intermediatesized
workers, who are guarded by ferocious-looking
“majors” about three-quarters of an inch long. The
workers can carry loads up to 12 times their own
weight, with each round trip taking several hours. The
leaf material brought back is chewed up by the ants
and fed to a fungus that provides the ants with food.
“Leaf-cutter ants collect many different types of leaves
and flower petals. The garden at the Laguna del Lagarto
Lodge is full of flowers that are invaded by the ants.
As they carried the colorful petals, I lay down to set
up this reflected composition. I shot many thousands
of pictures over several days and got just a few images
that were sharp.” —BM
Nikon D700; 105mm ƒ/2.8 lens; 1/250 sec at ƒ/16; ISO
200; Nikon SB800 flash (4); Gitzo carbon tripod; Gitzo