Leaf Cutting Ants are the most spectacular of all insect displays. They can be the most memorable exhibit, even in a large zoo with marquee attractions such as Gorillas or Penguins. In terms of return on investment, nothing rivals Leaf Cutters when looking at dwell time, the amount of delay an exhibit caused to the time spent within your establishment. Often visitors will follow an ant, carrying a leaf or seed, from the feeding area all the way back to the nest. This can take 20-30 minutes and if a walkway is going through, or passing along, other exhibits then the visitors see them in more detail also as they watch the ants passing by.
Using Leaf Cutters to create action within exhibits that house animals that don’t move very much, such as Caiman or large snakes, can be an excellent way to add movement and interest whilst still directing attention towards the main inhabitants.
And yet Leaf Cutters are better than all of these other display animals because not only is there constant action, there’s a great story to be told also. These ants are farmers. They grow crops to each, they build cities, construct super highways, have a workforce with specialist ants performing different roles, they have a graveyard, a rubbish dump and an army. The opportunity for fantastic interpretation via a series of signs is amazing. You can build your Leaf Cutting Ant exhibit into the focal point attraction of your entire attraction. The possibilities are endless.
In order that you can decide what type of Leaf Cutter housed in the display that best suits your needs, we have constructed the following questionnaire for you to run through. At each step you will be given an explanation of two different options and then offered a choice which will take to to the next stage. Once complete you will have a better picture of what would be the best option and when we have a chat you will be better able to describe the type of display you are thinking about.
Choice No 1.
A. You are looking for a large exhibit almost certainly in a location visited by members of the public. Your ideal scenario is for your visitors to be able to watch a foraging trail of ants carrying leaves from a leaf source back to a nest.
You are looking for Atta species. Atta is a genus of Leaf and Grass cutting ants found throughout South and Central America. Their colonies can become truly enormous and an adult nest can gather the same weight of leaves as an adult cow eats. They are spectacularly productive, the queen laying thousands of eggs every day. They will outgrow small nest enclosures and require a carefully designed, purpose built housing and display unit to properly cater for their life support and escape proofing needs.
B. You want to keep a relatively small colony, either for personal interest or for non display purposes such as research or classroom education. The nest of ants you are after must be contained within a small scale setup and not grow to proportions where containment within a smaller housing unit will become difficult.
You are looking for ants of the genus Acromyrmex. These are still true leaf and grass cutting ants however they have a much smaller queen and their adult colony size is a fraction of what Atta will grow to. Traditionally we supply these to private hobbyists, researchers and small scale situations where the ability or desire to house a display sized colony is not present. These ants also do not have a soldier caste so they are, in general, easier to work with. The average size of their workers is larger than that of Atta and they are slightly less specialised. However, given time and space, Acromyrmex colonies can become quite large and several commercial displays, utilising Acromyrmex leaf cutters, are on show around the world.
What Size of Display are you thinking about?