Where Are the Ants Carrying All Those Leaves? | Deep Look

We’re looking at some of the world’s earliest
and most competent farmers. These leafcutter ants make humans look like
newbies. We’ve been farming for 12,000 years. Ants have been doing it for 60 million. We developed plows and shovels. Ants use their own bodies. Their mandibles
are shears that cut through leaves with incredible efficiency. The ants drink the sap in the leaves for energy.
But they don’t eat them. Remember, they’re farming here. They’re using the leaves to grow something else. But first they have to haul the gigantic leaf
pieces away. This is no small matter. For a human, it would be like carrying more than
600 pounds between our teeth. Then, they clean the leaves. They crush them. Cut them into little pieces. Arrange them carefully in stacks. They even compost the leaves, with a little
of their own poop. They spread spores around, like seeds. Over time, a fungus grows. And that – this highly nutritious fungus
– that’s what the ants are after. They feed it to the colony’s offspring, millions of them. For humans, farming was the origin of our
civilization. And it’s the same for ants. They are fungus tycoons. Their colonies are
true underground cities with a bottomless need for resources. Having this reliable source of food has given
them the luxury to specialize. Leafcutter ants have the most complex division of labor
of any ants. There are tiny worker ants. And large worker ants. And enormous half-inch-long
soldiers that protect the colony. Like human farmers, their abundant food source
has made leafcutter ants very, very successful. And this is where two civilizations – ant
and human – collide. From Texas to South America, leafcutter ants
are huge agricultural pests. Working stealthily at night, they can strip an entire tree of
its best leaves in just hours. As their ant civilization grows, they build
up the soil in the tropical forest. But they also pose a threat to those around them. And in this way, we resemble them more than we might like to admit.

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100 thoughts on “Where Are the Ants Carrying All Those Leaves? | Deep Look

  1. It's a vast, swirling wonderland of sparkling white pleasure. Let it fill your senses with cascading, fluffy pillows of excitement and comfort as you've never felt before.

  2. And there is no creature on [or within] the earth or bird that flies with its wings except [that they are] communities like you. We have not neglected in the Register a thing. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered.


    (وَمَا مِنْ دَابَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا طَائِرٍ يَطِيرُ بِجَنَاحَيْهِ إِلَّا أُمَمٌ أَمْثَالُكُمْ ۚ مَا فَرَّطْنَا فِي الْكِتَابِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ ۚ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِمْ يُحْشَرُونَ)
    [سورة اﻷنعام 38]

  3. I wonder if you can use leaf cutter ants as a model for human society. Has anyone ever done a study on the patterns and speed at which these ants deplete an area (of proper scale)'s resources? Or maybe found out if these ants have their own methods of resource management? It would be interesting to compare that kind of data to human society.

  4. I had a colony of ants that kept stripping the petals off of my rose of sharon bushes. I lived in the northeast though so I'm not sure its these fellows.

  5. When I was a kid I thought they were cutting the leaves and making a salad for winter, but this ruined my childhood ;-;

  6. My teacher(not science) told my class that leaf cutter ants eat leaves and now I know she was lying

  7. That comment about how we resemble them more than we like to made me realise how we are flawed with greed and bottomless need.

  8. Ants are very powerful. They lift up things 10 ~ 50 times of their weight.
    This is like lifting something of 600 ~ 3000 kg for us (assume the average weight being 60 kg).

  9. Takes millions and millions of years but, they learn to farm a few fungi and 1 or 2 other species…we learn to farm almost everything plant or animal in about 5000 years and WE are the newbies

  10. Hmmm I think it's time for…


  11. You forgot about one thing.
    The ants live underground and the fungus produce carbondioxide (CO2) as it grows, which can be deadly and suffocating to the ants. So how do they survive?

  12. You forgot the part about how winter ants do t hibernate and are the only other ants out during the winter in north America

  13. I have two things to say. I’ve observed humans crushing insects so much, and it’s annoying to me. I watch someone I work with brutally murder over twenty crickets for no reason other than he didn’t like them. So that just shows you how sentient aliens could possibly perceive us. And the other thing is that I’ve eaten live ants before and they’re very tasty. It’s like eating a sour war head candy.

  14. I love your videos, they are super interesting and the quality is just perfect! Can I ask what camera and lenses you use?

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