theme song Greeting AC family. Welcome to another episode of the Ants Canada ant channel Last month, we Canadians celebrated our Canadian Thanksgiving with turkey and great meals with the family With next week being the fourth Thursday in November, the U.S. will celebrate American Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving holidays originated as a harvest festival celebrated by early U.S. settlers in celebration of a successful growing season. And so, to align with this theme of American Thanksgiving here at the Ants Canada ant channel, I wanted to feature two very special kinds of ants in a two part thanksgiving series. In this episode of the Ants Canada ant channel, I wanted to feature ants that happen to be very skilled farmers. So many of you have been requesting for me to do a video on these ants, And finally we will peek into the micro agricultural lives of leafcutter ants, whose fungus gardens are a sight to behold. Trust me guys, most people have no idea how cool these ants are. So keep watching until the end. And also to celebrate and give thanks to you guys, our amazing AC family, for the best year we’ve ever had, on this channel. We also will announce this weeks question of the week for our grand black friday give away. It’s our biggest give away of any AC question of the week yet! So much ant goodness ahead so stay tuned until the end for your chance to win. Here we go AC family! Time to put on your protective antimicrobial suits and delve with me into the lives of these amazing leafcutter ants. Here at the Ants Canada ant channel. The leafcutter ants are some of the coolest ants on the planet. and I think its safe to say that most ant hobbyist have dreamed to keep them me included. But I’ve never lived where they were native so I’ve never had the opportunity to keep them. There are 47 described species of leaf chewing ants, belonging to the two genera Atta and Acromyrmex. Now these ants you see here are called Desert Leafcutter Ants known scientifically as Acromyrmex versicolor. And some of you watching from the U.S. may be excited to know that they can be found in arid parts of America. This particular colony of Desert Leafcutter Ants belong to our GAN farmer in Los Angeles County, Drew, who has one of the most impressive collections of ants I have ever seen. Take a look at this ant cabinet that he has. Each one of those are ant colonies, and of various species. And its amazing to think that all of these colonies are from the state of California. So for those of you who don’t know about leafcutter ants, what these ants do is they cut leaves up, as their name suggest, or other plant parts, and they bring these pieces back to the nest where they chew them up further and use it to fertilize and cultivate a special fungus that they grow in their nest. The ants then eat this fungus. Pretty amazing, right? The ants dedicate their entire lives to making sure this fungus garden stays lively, continues to grow, and remains healthy, because if this fungus garden dies, the entire colony dies. Leafcutter ants have been roaming the earth for millions and millions of years. Check out this extinct species of leafcutter ant which happens to be related to our modern day leafcutter ants, fossilized in amber from 20 million years ago! So you see, ants have been farming millions of years before humans ever walked the earth. Alright, so are you guys ready to be mind blown? Check this! So the way the colonies of this species start is; the male and female elates of this species have their massive nuptial flights after the desert thunderstorms come and pass. They take to the air, mate profusely, then the males die, and the females break off their wings to start colonies of their own. They proceed to create a burrow where they establish their founding chamber Or their claustral cell Now get this, before they actually even leave the nest for nuptial flight, each one of these elate queens carry with her, a tiny fungal pellet in a special place in her mouth parts. This fungal pellet originated from the fungal gardens in her birth nest. And it would be the seed from which would grow the fungus garden that would feed her entire future colony, for the rest of her life. So in her new burrow, the queen alate expels this fungal pellet, cultivate it using her own feces and gets it to grow, until it becomes a sizable fungus garden. And thus, a leafcutter ant colony is born Isn’t that just mind blowing guys? Imagine growing up in a home where you and your whole family always had to eat food you guys grew yourselves. Food from a single crop and then one day having to leave your home with just a seed from that crop, tucked in your mouth, mating, and then spitting that seed out, and getting it to grow quickly enough so you and your babies could eat. Oh yeah, and growing it using your own feces? This is the miracle life-cycle of leafcutter ants. Isn’t that such an efficient lifestyle? I mean you guys grow your food, you eat the food, and then it comes out as droppings, which goes to feed the food that feeds you again which becomes droppings and it just keeps going over and over again in one huge cycle. It’s no wonder leafcutter ants and their evolutionary design has lasted millions of years. Now these ants are desert ants. Which is surprising because they grow lush underground fungus gardens from just kind of the scraps left over behind in the desert. Drew here, feeds these ants dried rose petals. Can you imagine that these ants use, essentially potpourri, to feed their fungus gardens? They’ll also use pieces of bark, little plant bits, dried leaves and little bits of twigs. These ants get all their nutrition from their fungus gardens they don’t need insects, they don’t need anything else, they just eat the fungus. Now are you ready to be mind blown even more? Okay guys, get this! So leafcutter ants have to deal with the same problems we have to deal with as humans growing a garden. These ants cultivate and take care of their underground gardens of fungus but there are fungus weeds, other parasitic fungus that eat the fungus that feeds the ants. And so like humans, you gotta get rid of these weeds. So these leafcutter ants have a special mechanism to get rid of their fungus weeds. On parts of their body, these ants have special bacteria that grow in huge colonies. That’s right, their bodies cultivate special bacteria. If you look at this picture you’ll see the patch right there, where the special bacteria grows. Now these special bacteria called Actinomyces, produce a special antibiotic which kills the fungus weeds. If you look at this picture of this ant, it really looks like it’s full of fuzz and fur but that’s actually strings of this antibiotic. So isn’t that crazy that these ants have evolved an anti-weeding system? And check out the symbiosis! The beauty of this entire set-up is that the leafcutter ants, the species of fungus that the ants eat, the fungus weeds, and the bacteria found on the body of the leafcutter ants are only found together in these leafcutter ant nests Nowhere else in the world. Isn’t that pretty crazy? All of these species evolved together to the point where they don’t exist without each other. And whats really cool too is that scientist are trying to better understand and study this bacteria that are found on these leafcutter ants to develop better antibiotics, because currently, a lot of people are allergic to some of the antibiotics that are available today like penicillin. Can you imagine if in the future we start using ant-antibiotics? Or just simply ANT-ibiotics Guys let’s copyright the name now © Copyright AC Family November 2016 Now if you’re planning to keep this species There are a few things you have to keep in mind First of all, in order to keep these, you have to be from the state of California, Arizona, or other arid states to which this species is native. There also is another leafcutter speices called Atta Texana found in Texas and surrounding states. And if you’re not in these areas, then legally, you’re not allowed to keep them Now the queen ant of these species can be found anywhere between July and September and sometimes in October Their nuptial flights happen after the desert thunderstorms It’s hard to miss the queens, look how large and beautiful they look I really love their color. Where they’re from, temperatures can reach 105 ° F during the day and 90 °F at night. The colonies are almost always found in desert washes. Which are kind of like dried up rivers in the desert and they are almost always found around large bushes or trees This species can be found in the Mojave Desert and the Sonoran Desert If you’re lucky enough to live more south like Mexico, and South America, then leafcutter ants are abundant. You can find Atta, and Acromyrmex. Now this Acromyrmex colony is housed in a home made setup of connected accrylic containers, with a hydro-stone plaster flooring. And the hydro-stone is hydrated from a well below and boy is it impressive! Now one of the key things when keeping this species is making sure their fungus remains alive I find a lot of people who keep leafcutter ants often struggle with keeping the fungus alive. It’s not so much the ants that are sensitive, it’s the fungus. And if the fungus dies, the ants die too. And every species of leafcutter ant has their favorite plant matter to which they add to the fungus. If I’m ever lucky enough to live in an area where leafcutter ants are found, you better believe I’m going to be keeping a colony of them. But until then I’ll just watch this video over and over again. Just to admire them And as always, I’m going to add a hidden cookie here So you guys can just watch more footage of these leafcutter ants. I would like to thank Drew from L.A. for allowing us to film his leafcutter ants. And stay tuned for part two of this Thanksgiving series next week, where we look at the amazing lives of Harvester Ants Thank you AC family for joining us and by the time you join us next week, U.S. Thanksgiving would have passed so I just want to say, have a Happy Thanksgiving and wait for part two, next Saturday! It’s Ant Love forever! And of course we can’t end this video without the AC question of the week. Last week we asked, how many checkpoints does a yellow crazy ant colony have before entering the nest? Congratulations to TheHardest who correctly answered 2. Congratulations TheHardest! You just won yourself a $20 giftcard to our shop! And finally here we are, our AC grand black Friday give away And for this giveaway, we ask, “What is the name of the bacteria found on the bodies of these leaf-cuter ants?” Leave your answer in the comment section and you can win a $500 gift card to our shop. Yes that’s right, AC fam. $500 USD to buy anything from AntsCanada.com Good luck Ant Lovers! Tune in next week for the winner! And one last time, have a happy Thanksgiving for all of our American followers. I just wanted to take this opportunity to also thank Alex Wild, my very good friend who happens to be a myrmecologist and taxonomist and nature photographer. He was kind enough to let us use his stunning photographs for this channel His photos are amazing so be sure to visit his site at Alexanderwild.com and order a few ant prints.