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Costa Rica Rainforest Ants

Among the thousands of species of insects in tropical rainforest, the most intriguing and fascinating are the Leaf-Cutter Ants, which farm mushrooms underground using mulch chewed from leaves stripped from specific plants and trees. These ants have evolved into an advanced agricultural society based on ant-fungus symbiosis: the ants don't feed on leaves, but on special structures produced by the specialized fungus that grows only in the underground chambers of the ant burrow!

Leaf-Cutter Ant Showcase

Leaf-cutter ants can be seen trekking along narrow trails through the Costa Rican tropical rainforest, carrying cut leaf bits to their nests, where the leaves will be mulched into fertilizer to grow the specialized fungus that produces special structures called gongylidia, on which the ants feed. The ants actively cultivate their fungus, feeding it with freshly cut plant material and maintaining it free from pests and molds. This ant activity is much like human crop cultivation and the Leaf-Cutter Ants and the fungi are dependent on each other for survival.

Despite the potential damage that Leaf-Cutter Ants can inflict on valuable plants, they can be very useful as well. Their anthill is formed by the accumulation of waste from the internal cavities and this material can be used as a very high quality organic fertilizer in human farming.

A mature Leaf-Cutter colony can contain more than 7 million ants, mostly sterile female workers. They are divided into castes, based mostly on size, that perform different tasks. Size and functional difference are determined by the administration of specialized food during the larval stage.

The Queen ant is the heart of the ant burrow, as well as the mother of all its other inhabitants. As one of the largest ants in the world, the Queen can be 2 inches long, live for over 20 years and lay millions of eggs. She lays her eggs once a year (from May to June in Costa Rica) reaching up to 50,000 eggs.

Don't forget that after an intense and active day you can relax in the hotel’s hot springs and enjoy the health and beauty of our Fangus Spa.