(Update – I did end up seeing a colony today when we went out to our family’s land north of the airport. Above is a photo of the ants in action and below you can see their trail. I deleted the photo from the original post. )
Yesterday at a park in the neighborhood of Las Hamacas in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, my wife Nadia discovered this solitary leafcutter ant. We didn´t see the characteristic trail of worker ants leading to the underground nest. The 47 different species of leafcutter ants are a fascinating group of insects. They are not eating the leaves, but they serve as a substrate for the cultivation of a fungus. The leafcutter ants eat the fungus. Their colonies are complex and huge, measuring up to 30 meters across and holding 5-8 million members.
The leafcutter is endemic to the Neotropics from Argentina to southern Texas. I hope to see a colony in action before we leave Bolivia.