Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Leafcutter ants carry leaf fragments to a tube that leads to their nests in a new permanent exhibit at the Butterfly Biosphere at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi on Friday. The exhibit, which debuted on Thanksgiving Point’s 25th anniversary, features a clear tubing that allows guests to watch the colony work in real time. “Leafcutter ants are some of the most ancient farmers on the planet, having developed agriculture about 50 million years ago,” Marissa Harrison, containment director of the Butterfly Biosphere, said in a statement. “The structures you’ll see inside their nest chambers are gardens of fungus meticulously designed and tended by the ants. Once leaf fragments are brought into the nest, an assembly line of ants cuts them into smaller pieces, then mulches them into pellets, then fertilizes and arranges the pellets into piles, and finally plants strands of fungus onto them to encourage new growth.” According the Thanksgiving Point, leafcutter colonies can contain 1 million to 5 million ants at the height of their maturity, with the queen ant laying around 150 million eggs over the course of her 15-year lifespan. The colony at Thanksgiving Point features nearly 65,000 leafcutter ants. The exhibit is included with admission to the Butterfly Biosphere, which is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, or to purchase tickets, log on to thanksgivingpoint.org.
Source:: Deseret News – Utah News
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