Acromyrmex octospinosus (Rugged Leafcutter Ants)
This 'New World' species is probably one of the "celebrity" species amongst the ant keeping hobby and related fields - often featuring in widespread documentaries on platforms such as National Geographic, BBC and Netflix. The leafcutter ant nest is a highly complex society which is known for its lengthy foraging trails spanning metres through South American jungle and plains predominantly. These ants are brown-orange in colouration and prove to have a highly polymorphic society - from 2mm nurses all the way to 14mm majors with large metallic zinc mandibles, perfect for cutting the soft tissue of plant matter.
Leaf cutter ants as the name indicates, do just that - cut leaves! However, unlike popular belief, the ants don't actually use these leaves to feed themselves and the queen, instead they transport this biological matter deep within the nest chambers in order to present it to their symbiotic nest partner - typically a Leucocoprinus gongylophorus fungus organism. Here is where the really intricate scientific action happens!
This fungus actually has the ability to degrade the plant cellulose fibres (that's plant tissue to you and me) and turn these into nutrient forms that in exchange, feed the entire ant colony whilst keeping some for its own growth and stability.
Therefore, when you buy a leafcutter colony you will receive a large enough sample of fungus which will enable them to carry on this mutualistic relationship and continue growing and expanding in your setup.
In the wild, nests are often found amongst lowland territories in which shrubs and low lying plant foliage predominates. Additionally, these habitats are usually exposed to wet and dry seasons however, due to the tropical nature, these ants, specifically their fungus has adapted to a very specific temperature and humidity range of 22-25C and 80-95% humidity.
Lastly did you know that whilst these ants are leafcutter ants, there are 2 more genera of leaf cutter ants - Atta spp. & Trachymyrmex spp. Essentially making Acromyrmex spp. morphologically an "inbetween" of these two as they do not form gigantic colonies such as Atta cephalotes nor do they form such small simplistic, almost non-leafcutter like tribes such as Trachymyrmex turrifex.
They are a very active species of ant that is suitable for individuals looking to get into exotic ant species. As long as the temperature and humidity parameters are provisioned for, the ants and fungus should thrive with the right leaf material (privet, soft flowers, bramble, orange peel, grapes, oats, fish flakes). In terms of growth they are quite fast to develop into large colonies. Due to the nature of their natural environment being tropical, these ants are active throughout the entire year, thus not requiring hibernation.
It is illegal and strictly frowned upon to release any non-native ants into the wild.