All colonies have been collected fresh from founding and imported legally.

All colonies are kept and cared for in perfect conditions.

Buying from me gives you around the clock support to ensure your colony thrives.

Leaf Cutter Care Sheet

Keeping Leaf Cutters

Leaf Cutters! Every ant keepers dream species. You would've seen this species in films growing up or on the BBC as a documentary. There is so much to them and they're by far the most recognizable species of ant due to their famous trait of carrying leaves to and from locations. Keeping leaf cutters comes with the great responsibility of being able to provide the correct stable temperatures/ humidities whilst being able to expand their nest when needed. I have no doubt you will relish watching a colony grow and spend endless hours enjoying their company and admiring their traits and abilities. A colony will take around 20 months to reach a mature state. Leaf cutters are very polymorphic and even have majors! Keeping a leafcutter colony is a lot different from keeping other species of ant due to their nature and requirements.

 

Housing Leaf Cutters

To house leaf cutters you will need to keep a few things in mind. First off the temperature, the fungus requires a stable temperature of ideally 25c but between 23°c -26°c will be ok. Secondly, the humidity! Probably the most important thing when it comes to keeping leafcutters. The fungus thrives at the humidity range of 95%- 100%. It's extremely important to keep both temperatures stable and humidity as close to 100% as you can without the fungus coming in physical contact with water. In the wild, leafcutters build large deep underground chambers to house the fungus and in their origin, it is very humid so they never experience dry land or low temps. Failing to provide such high humidities can lead to the fungus drying out and dying. As well as exposing the queen to temps over 30c° could result in the sperm stored to be destroyed and causing her to cease laying.

 

You will require:

A section for the fungus to flourish in with stable temps (23°c- 26°c) and humidities (90%- 100%). The fungus garden will also require some airflow but not too much that it lowers the humidity. Please remember that it is the fungus itself that requires this and not the ants. The ants themselves are quite a hardy species but look at it as both you and the ants are caring for the fungus together. To mimic this in captivity, you can either use large acrylic cylinders with an isolated heated water source that you can top up and adjust the temp to reach the desired humidities and temps (You can buy a setup like this online pre-built or take on the mini-challenge of creating the setup yourself). Or You could also invest in a large tank and create an island like setup with a moat and heat the water using water heaters but please keep in mind that you may require to have a slanted lid to avoid the condensation dripping onto the fungus. In addition to this, you could also cover the fungus to avoid this happening but still keeping in mind the requirements it needs. Any setup where you can achieve the correct conditions is perfect. In the wild, the fungus is in complete darkness so possibly think about this and try to add a removable cover so you could check on it from time to time and watch them work! Please keep in mind that eventually, they will fill up a fungus chamber in which they will require more room to keep expanding!

 

A foraging area in which the ants can travel to and from to cut and collect leaves to bring back to the fungus in able for the fungus to break them down and continue growing and expanding. Many people mistake leaf cutters for eating the leaves when in fact, they use them to aid the growth of the fungus in which feeds the whole colony. When creating a foraging area, you need to keep in mind the distance of the area to the nest. These ants like to travel some distance and this is where the iconic trait comes into play of you being able to see them carrying cut leaves back to the fungus. Larger colonies have been found to travel up to 100m in the quest for food! In smaller colonies, it's not necessary to provide longer distances to travel as the few foragers must collect leaves and bring them back to feed the fungus but in more mature colonies, I'd recommend providing longer traveling distances as this encourages natural behavior and it's great to witness the iconic trait. You can mimic this by wrapping a wide enough tubing around an object vertically to simulate them traveling a distance without taking up much room. Otherwise, expand some tubing across a room and let your imagination take over to create the setup of your dreams and enjoy this amazing species in full swing. You could also have them travel openly above you on a rope for example. Keep in mind the size of the tubing if using! Ideally, I recommend a 30mm diameter tubing size to allow the ants to comfortably bring leaves back. However, these ants aren't stupid and will be able to bring them back regardless but with more difficulty. The foraging area will require a temperature of 21°c- 27°c and a humidity range of 50%- 70%. Again, the ants themselves are hardy but its the fungus that is sensitive to climates.

 

A garbage chamber. Its important the ants do not pile garbage near the fungus as the smell of the garbage can kill the fungus itself. Create a chamber away from the nest in which the ants can throw away dead fungus and any other rubbish they no longer need. To encourage and establish an area as a "garbage chamber", you may need to manually pick up their rubbish and place it in there for them to understand the said area as the dumping ground. They will then find this chamber themselves and start to do it without your help. In the wild, leafcutters bury their rubbish in which it then fertilizes the soil which works well. In captivity, this is not possible and the rubbish will build up and will come back to haunt them so if you're using substrate then be sure it's not deep enough for this natural behavior to occur. The garbage chamber requires a temperature of 21°c- 27°c and humidity of 30%- 60% if possible.

 

Fungus chamber: Temps 23°c- 26°c/ Humidity 90%-100%

Foraging area: Temps 21°c- 28°c/ Humidity 50%- 70%

Garbage chamber: Temps 21°- 28°c/ Humidity 30%- 60%

 

Feeding Leaf Cutters

During the summer, it's fairly easy to feed your colony due to there being numerous types of leaves available. During the winter it can become more difficult due to the decreased availability of leaves around. In the wild, leafcutters will alternate between different types of leaves to avoid over-harvesting a leaf type so its important to alternate the leaf type regularly to encourage this behavior and to give them a nice variety. I'd recommend alternating daily and going back to the start after day 3. When picking leaves it is vital to ensure none have been sprayed with harmful chemicals like fungicide or pesticide. Feeding your colony something that has been sprayed can be lethal as the ants will be oblivious to this and bring them back to the fungus which could kill it. To avoid this I'd recommend collecting your leaves away from potential sprayed areas and plantations. Leaf cutters will rarely take on protein in the wild but this isn't necessary to provide this. leaf cutters don't need a water source as they get enough water via the leaves they cut and the humidity in the air. It's recommended to water the leaves before feeding them to the ants to clean them and moisten them to provide extra humidity.

 

Summer Feedings

Flowers (not from florists)

Evergreens (all year round)- privet, rose, bramble etc

Trees- oak, willow, acer etc

Periwinkle

Dandelion

Raspberry leaves

Fern leaves

(Typically any leaves and flowers are worth a try as long as they haven't been sprayed)

 

Winter Alternate Feedings

(When autumn comes, feeding becomes a little more difficult due to fewer leaves/ flowers available.)

Evergreens (all year round)- privet, rose, bramble etc

Cooked sweet corn

Sultanas

Oats

Cabbage and Kale

Fruit and Veg- Apple, Grape, Orange, Mango, Sprouts etc

Spinach

Peanut shells

Protein- Ham, Chicken, live insects etc

Honey water- (Emergency food only!)

 

There are sites online where you can purchase organic exotic leaves (like banana leaves) all year round but make sure they're organic and safe for your colony.

Arrival Of Your Colony

When your colony arrives it is essential to waste no time and put them into a setup with the required conditions immediately so it's recommended to have this ready before ordering. During delivery, the fungus may have broken up to expose visible brood but this isn't an issue as they will repair the fungus within 2 days. The fungus should appear white-ish with a darker top. The darker top is the construction area! this is the area they're adding to. A yellow fungus is a sign of dead fungus and upon arrival, the leafcutters will spend a couple of days cleaning up and repairing. It's recommended to feed them right away to get them comfortable and back into their original lifestyle as soon as possible!  

Smaller colonies of leafcutters won't show much foraging activity but this is where the excitement comes in with being able to watch them grow and flourish right before your eyes!

 

Alive Upon Arrival Guaranteed

Upon delivery, you will receive a healthy queen, said workers, healthy fungus the said size, and visible brood. In the rare occurrence that the queen or fungus dies during delivery then a replacement colony will be provided free of charge to ensure you receive the healthy colony that was packaged and sent to you. I will require the colony to be sent back to me so I can evaluate what went wrong (ill cover the cost). Please note that this only applies to the Queen and fungus and not the workers or brood. This also only applies to the arrival of your colony (when you first receive them). If they soon fail in your care then this is not my responsibility as it is down to you to ensure you have done your research and homework on how to provide and care for leafcutters. I will be here to help but there's only so much I can do and suggest. The fungus can go from perfectly healthy to a critical state in 72 hours. Missing the delivery will also VOID the guarantee.

 

Delivery

UK

Orders will be sent just before postal closing times with royal mail special delivery guaranteed before 1 PM (inc in price) to ensure they spend minimal time in the post than required. A heat pack will be provided in your order when necessary to avoid them dropping to dangerous temps. If you require your colony to be sent on a specific day to make sure you're around to receive the parcel then please let me know by adding a note to the purchase or contacting me. UK Delivery is free of charge! Missing the delivery will void the alive upon arrival guarantee!

 

Europe

I don't officially ship to Europe but this doesn't mean I won't! if you would like to buy a colony and you're out of the UK then message me so we can arrange this. Please note that they will have to be sent with next day delivery and this can become expensive but it is totally necessary to ensure they reach you safely.

 

Questions?

If you have any questions whatsoever then please don't hesitate to message me! I am here to help you before and after purchase so I can ensure they do well in your care and be here to help you in the event of a setback. 

please contact me via email or on my social medias.

Info@AntsDavey.co.uk

Check out The Colonialist's unboxing video on this species 

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© Ants Davey 2020

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Info@AntsDavey.co.uk

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