Acromyrmex versicolor
Acromyrmex versicolor is a type of leafcutter ant. Most leafcutter ants are tropical in their distribution. Acromyrmex versicolor is the ant to which people are typically referring when they talk about Leafcutter Ants in Arizona. Out other leafcutter ant, Atta mexicana, has an Arizona distribution limited to in Organ Pipe National Park and its vicinity. Acromyrmex versicolor nests are most commonly found in the shade of desert trees. Their volcano shaped nest mounds, about 10" high and a 10-12" in diameter, are quite distinctive. When active, these ants send columns of workers out to forage. The workers bring vegetation back to the nest. They don't seem to eat the vegetation directly, but instead chew up the leaves and twigs and use it to feed fungus gardens which they grow in the depths of the nest. The ants then eat the fungus and its fruiting bodies that they have farmed.


  

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Acromyrmex versicolor excavating dirt from her nest
Acromyrmex versicolor excavating dirt from her nest
Acromyrmex versicolor worker
Acromyrmex versicolor worker
Acromyrmex versicolor worker biting a mesquite pod shell. They will often bring dead vegetation back to their nests.
Acromyrmex versicolor worker biting a mesquite pod shell. They will often bring dead vegetation back to their nests.
Acromyrmex versicolor worker
Acromyrmex versicolor worker
Acromyrmex versicolor worker
Acromyrmex versicolor worker
Aphaenogaster cockerelli worker with Acromyrmex versicolor male. After an Acromyrmex mating flight, ants such as Aphaenogaster have a field day preying upon the relatively defenseless sexuals.
Aphaenogaster cockerelli worker with Acromyrmex versicolor male. After an Acromyrmex mating flight, ants such as Aphaenogaster have a field day preying upon the relatively defenseless sexuals.
Close up view of Acromyrmex versicolor worker mandibles
Close up view of Acromyrmex versicolor worker mandibles
Acromyrmex vesicolor mating flight in progress. You can see the cloud of males silhouetted against the sky. When a female flies into the cloud, a male will mate with her and they will fall to the ground together.
Acromyrmex vesicolor mating flight in progress. You can see the cloud of males silhouetted against the sky. When a female flies into the cloud, a male will mate with her and they will fall to the ground together.
Acromyrmex vesicolor mating flight in progress. You can see the cloud of males silhouetted against the sky. When a female flies into the cloud, a male will mate with her and they will fall to the ground together.
Acromyrmex vesicolor mating flight in progress. You can see the cloud of males silhouetted against the sky. When a female flies into the cloud, a male will mate with her and they will fall to the ground together.