Atta cephalotes - Leafcutter Ants

photograph © Alex Wild 2007

Ants carrying leaves are vulnerable to attack by parasitic phorid flies.  To help prevent attacks, small guard workers often ride atop the cut vegetation, mandibles open in defensive posture.  Intriguingly, hitchhiking is only seen in regions inhabitated by the flies. Outside the geographic range of the parasites, leafcutter ants do not show this leaf-riding behavoir.

Panamá, Panamá.: Gamboa
09º07.0'N 79º42.1'W 35m. 28.vii.2007
Trail of ants along tree trunk and exposed roots.

This image is copyrighted by the photographer and cannot be used without permission. To obtain permission to use this image, please email Alex Wild. (alwild (at)  Most of the photographs on are reduced from their original size and compressed for more efficient web transmission.  In some cases, higher quality versions are available.

This image was captured with a Canon EOS 20D, using a Canon 65mm 1-5x macro lens.