Texas Leaf-cutting Ant, Atta texana (Buckl.)

PLANTS ATTACKED: Field crops in general. These ants occur principally in the eastern part of Texas.

DESCRIPTION: The leaf-cutting ant is rusty brown. There are several castes or forms and vary considerably in size. The queen, the reproductive form, is approximately 3/4 inch long. The worker ant, the form most commonly seen, ranges from 1/4 to 1/2 inch in length. The colonies usually are found in well-drained sandy soils and may consist of a few mounds covering a small area to many mounds extending over several thousand square feet. A nest, the interior of the mound, consists of several chambers and may extend downward as far as 15 feet

LIFE HISTORY: Winged males and females develop in May and June, fly from their colony and mate. After mating, the females lose their wings, establish nests beneath the soil and become the queens of a new colony. They may continue reproduction within one nest for years. In such a case, they may build a nest 10 to 20 feet in size with numerous "craters," and each nest may contain many thousands of individuals.

DAMAGE: The worker ants are active from May to September. They forage during the night on field crops as well as many other plants. They often defoliate the plants, carrying the severed leaves to their nest. The leaves are used to maintain their "fungus garden" which eventually is used for food. Well-defined foraging trails that resemble miniature highways are established by the ants traveling to and from their nests to plants upon which they feed.