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A New Leaf

By Christy Lowman

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This month I thought we would talk about a really cool insect. One that is so organized, and sophisticated that their colony is the second most complex society on the whole earth. Ours is ranked number one.

This colony is also farmers who grow a certain kind of fungus for their larvae to eat.

They are known as Leaf Cutter ants. They cut off leaf pieces and haul them in their mouths to their home where they use the leaves to grow fungi in their garden for their offspring to eat. Is that cool or what?

The adult ants only drink sap from the leaves for food. They work so quickly they can clear more than one tree of its leaves in less than a day! A nightmare for people who grow trees and plants for a living in the areas where leaf cutters live! Leaf cutters live in Northern Texas, South America, and Central America.

These dark red ants have a lifespan of ten to fifteen years. They are like butterflies in the fact that they go through metamorphous stages. They hatch from eggs as lava, then go through a pupa stage. They eventually reach the ant stage about 40-50 days later.

Their body structure is like other ants except for the back of the thorax has three rows of spines that look like teeth. This is so they can move things easier.

Leaf cutters belong to the ant group called Atta ants. They are also able to excrete a liquid when they find a superb food source which lets the others know to come and help gather it.

Each ant has its own special role in the colony. The largest ants, called Majors are the protectors, guardians, and heavy lifters. They also clear paths of debris so the others can get to their food source.

The second-largest ants are called Mediae. They do the majority of the cutting and carrying of leaves for the colony.

The third-smallest, the Minors protect the food and the forging path. They get to ride on the tops of the leaf pieces as they are being transported back to the nest. They do this to protect the ant that is carrying the leaf from parasitic flies.  These Minors drink leaf sap on the way back home as well as inspect the health of the leaf making sure there is not a foreign fungus already growing on them. If there is, they will rid the leaf of the fungus.

The smallest ants are called Minims who work solely at home. They tend to the fungus garden and the larvae. Some of them work only as garbage collectors. Removing decayed plant matter from the garden. Once deemed a garbage collector, these ants are no longer permitted to interact with the queen or tend to the fungus garden to prevent the spread of disease. They will be garbage collectors for the rest of their life.

The name of the fungus these ants cultivate is known as Leucocoprineae. The ants care in great detail about the fungi they grow. If the leaves they bring the fungus to eat don’t agree with them, they will throw them out and feed them something else. They also release an antibacterial substance from the bacterium that grows on their bodies to protect the fungus from infection. The relationship the ants have with the fungus is called symbiotic, meaning they do something to help each other survive.

Speaking of leaves, have you ever heard of turning over a new leaf? Which means changing something about yourself or something you do? One of the most common times to do this is the beginning of each New Year. Most people make New Year’s resolutions in hopes to change something or better themselves. Do you make new goals for the new year? I certainly do. It’s a time I think about the past year and how it went and then I think about the things I would like to improve about myself and set new goals to try to achieve within the next year. It is okay if you don’t meet each goal, sometimes that happens too. But it gives you a sense of things to improve and try to meet. I love the fact, that God knew we needed a reset set button, a fresh new start, or to turn a new leaf so to speak. He cares so much about us not only did He give us a New Year to do this, but He also gave us a fresh start each new day when we wake up! He is graceful and forgives us of our many mistakes and gives us infinite fresh starts each day, each time we ask for forgiveness, each new year. Sometimes something happens where the day is just horrible and I can’t wait to go to bed and have a fresh start the next day! To me, this is one of the best gifts He could ever give us.

Dear Lord, we thank you for caring for us so much that you give us infinite fresh starts and the chance to turn new leaves when we ask for them. I pray that each one of us will seek the plans You have for us and that we will trust our lives to You. In Jesus’s name, I pray, Amen.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11



Christy Lowman is a Christian author and illustrator that lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband and two children. She enjoys writing and illustrating books for all ages. Some of her short stories are published with Guideposts and HCI. Christy gives all the glory to God in everything she does. A portion of every book sold from the Small Bible Character Series will be donated to battle human trafficking. If you enjoy her books, “like’ her author page on Facebook and let her know! You can buy her books at // You can reach her at //


You can read more Christian news from Christy here.