Atta (genus)

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Atta (genus)

Atta (genus) is a genus of New World ants of the subfamily Myrmicinae. It contains at least 17 known species.

Leaf-cutter ants are relatively large, rusty red or brown in colour, and have a spiny body and long legs. The three main castes within a nest are the queen, worker and soldier. Only the queens and males have wings, and these ants are also known as ‘reproductives’ or ‘swarmers’. Although most of the ants in the nest are female, only the queens produce eggs. Queens are usually over 20 mm long.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Hymenoptera
  • Family: Formicidae
  • Subfamily: Myrmicinae
  • Tribe: Attini
  • Genus: Atta
  • Type species: Atta cephalotes


The following habitats are found across the Leaf-cutter ants distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.


Leafcutter ant, any of 39 ant species abundant in the American tropics, easily recognized by their foraging columns composed of hundreds or thousands of ants carrying small pieces of leaves. These moving trails of cut foliage often stretch over 30 metres (100 feet) across the forest floor and up and down the trunks of canopy trees.

After clipping out pieces of leaves with their jaws, the fragments are transported to an underground nest that can include over 1,000 chambers and house millions of individual ants. Nests of the Atta genus are characterized by ants of different sizes corresponding to castes of workers, soldiers, reproductives, and “guards.”

Deep within the nest, the ants physically and chemically cultivate subterranean “gardens” of fungus that grow on the chewed leaves. The ants remove contaminants and produce amino acids and enzymes to aid fungal growth. They also secrete substances that suppress other fungal growth.


Atta (genus) spp. live in huge colonies with several millions of individuals. The nests of e.g. A. sexdens can be dug 6 m (19.68 ft) deep into the ground, have a diameter of 10 m (32.8 ft) and a volume of 20 cubic metres. They consist of a great number of about football-sized chambers. Some of these are used for waste, but most for growing fungus and raising larvae. A comparatively small mound above ground is built only from excavated material.

For foraging the insects wander up to 100 m 328 ft) from their nest, on „ant trails“ which they keep free of obstacles. The population in a colony is differentiated in several castes. They are each specialised in a particular task and differ remarkably in size.

Atta (genus) images

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