Atta vollenweideri

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Atta vollenweideri
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Attini
Genus: Atta
Species: A. vollenweideri
Binomial name
Atta vollenweideri
Forel, 1893

Atta vollenweideri casent0173818 profile 1.jpg

Atta vollenweideri casent0173818 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels


A fungus growing species that uses grasses for its gardens. Workers transport cut grass along trunk trails and can forage up to 150 m from the nest. Foraging behavior differs by distance from the nest. Larger workers cut grass fragments when far from the nests and smaller workers pick up and transport cut fragments Longer transport distances lead to transport chains with up to 5 different workers moving a single grass clipping (Röschard and Roces 2003). This species was found to be a pest in pastures in Paraguay, feeding on the grasses Cenchrus ciliaris, Chloris gayana, Cynodon nlemfuensis, Digitaria eriantha, Megathyrsus maximus and Urochloa mosambicensis (Sarubbi & Ramirez, 2020).



Latitudinal Distribution Pattern

Latitudinal Range: -22.809943° to -38.85°.

Tropical South

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Neotropical Region: Argentina (type locality), Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb

Countries Occupied

Number of countries occupied by this species based on AntWiki Regional Taxon Lists. In general, fewer countries occupied indicates a narrower range, while more countries indicates a more widespread species.

Estimated Abundance

Relative abundance based on number of AntMaps records per species (this species within the purple bar). Fewer records (to the left) indicates a less abundant/encountered species while more records (to the right) indicates more abundant/encountered species.


Explore-icon.png Explore Fungus Growing 
For additional details see Fungus growing ants.

A handful of ant species (approx. 275 out of the known 15,000 species) have developed the ability to cultivate fungus within their nests. In most species the fungus is used as the sole food source for the larvae and is an important resource for the adults as well. Additionally, in a limited number of cases, the fungus is used to construct part of the nest structure but is not as a food source.

These fungus-feeding species are limited to North and South America, extending from the pine barrens of New Jersey, United States, in the north (Trachymyrmex septentrionalis) to the cold deserts in Argentina in the south (several species of Acromyrmex). Species that use fungi in nest construction are known from Europe and Africa (a few species in the genera Crematogaster, Lasius).

The details of fungal cultivation are rich and complex. First, a wide variety of materials are used as substrate for fungus cultivating. The so-called lower genera include species that prefer dead vegetation, seeds, flowers, fruits, insect corpses, and feces, which are collected in the vicinity of their nests. The higher genera include non leaf-cutting species that collect mostly fallen leaflets, fruit, and flowers, as well as the leafcutters that collect fresh leaves from shrubs and trees. Second, while the majority of fungi that are farmed by fungus-feeding ants belong to the family Lepiotaceae, mostly the genera Leucoagaricus and Leucocoprinus, other fungi are also involved. Some species utilise fungi in the family Tricholomataceae while a few others cultivate yeast. The fungi used by the higher genera no longer produce spores. Their fungi produce nutritious and swollen hyphal tips (gongylidia) that grow in bundles called staphylae, to specifically feed the ants. Finally, colony size varies tremendously among these ants. Lower taxa mostly live in inconspicuous nests with 100–1000 individuals and relatively small fungus gardens. Higher taxa, in contrast, live in colonies made of 5–10 million ants that live and work within hundreds of interconnected fungus-bearing chambers in huge subterranean nests. Some colonies are so large, they can be seen from satellite photos, measuring up to 600 m3.

Based on these habits, and taking phylogenetic information into consideration, these ants can be divided into six biologically distinct agricultural systems (with a list of genera involved in each category):

Nest Construction

A limited number of species that use fungi in the construction of their nests.

Lower Agriculture

Practiced by species in the majority of fungus-feeding genera, including those thought to retain more primitive features, which cultivate a wide range of fungal species in the tribe Leucocoprineae.

Coral Fungus Agriculture

Practiced by species in the Apterostigma pilosum species-group, which cultivate fungi within the Pterulaceae.

Yeast Agriculture

Practiced by species within the Cyphomyrmex rimosus species-group, which cultivate a distinct clade of leucocoprineaceous fungi derived from the lower attine fungi.

Generalized Higher Agriculture

Practiced by species in several genera of non-leaf-cutting "higher attine" ants, which cultivate a distinct clade of leucocoprineaceous fungi separately derived from the lower attine fungi.

Leaf-Cutter Agriculture

A subdivision of higher attine agriculture practiced by species within several ecologically dominant genera, which cultivate a single highly derived species of higher attine fungus.

Note that the farming habits of Mycetagroicus (4 species) are unknown. Also, while species of Pseudoatta (2 species) are closely related to the fungus-feeding genus Acromyrmex, they are social parasites, living in the nests of their hosts and are not actively involved in fungus growing. ‎

Viera et al. (2015) - Queens of leaf-cutting ants found their nests singly, each consisting of a vertical tunnel and a final horizontal chamber. Because of the claustral mode of nest founding, the queen and/or her initial fungus garden are exposed to threats imposed by several soil pathogens, and the antibiotic secretions produced by their metapleural glands are considered a main adaptation to deal with them. Nests of two Atta leafcutting ant species, Atta vollenweideri and Atta sexdens rubropilosa, occur in different soil types, alfisols and oxisols. Their queens are known to excavate the initial nest in different soil horizons, clayish and organic, respectively, which differ in their fertility and associated microbiota. The results revealed that metapleural glands of A. sexdens rubropilosa have a larger number of secretory cells, and consequently a higher production of antibiotic secretions, which may have been selected to allow nest founding at the superficial horizon of oxisols rich in organic matter and microorganisms. Glands of A. vollenweideri, on the contrary, presented fewer secretory cells, suggesting less production of antibiotic secretions. We argue that the excavation of deep founding nests in A. vollenweideri was primarily selected for during evolution to avoid the risk posed by flooding, and further hypothesize that a reduced number of cells in their metapleural glands occurred because of a weak pathogen-driven selective pressure at the preferred soil depth.

Halboth and Roces (2017). Figure 1. Ventilation turrets of Atta vollenweideri. Top row: Ventilation turrets of field nests (Formosa, Argentina) with a) one single opening and b) multiple openings. Bottom row: turrets constructed in a laboratory colony with c) one single opening and d) multiple openings. Note the different scale bars.

Halboth and Roces (2017) - Abstract Nest ventilation in the leaf-cutting ant Atta vollenweideri is driven via a wind-induced mechanism. On their nests, workers construct small turrets that are expected to facilitate nest ventilation. We hypothesized that the construction and structural features of the turrets would depend on the colony’s current demands for ventilation and thus might be influenced by the prevailing environmental conditions inside the nest. Therefore, we tested whether climate-related parameters, namely airflow, air humidity and CO 2 levels in the outflowing nest air influenced turret construction in Atta vollenweideri. In the laboratory, we simulated a semi-natural nest arrangement with fungus chambers, a central ventilation tunnel providing outflow of air and an aboveground building arena for turret construction. In independent series, different climatic conditions inside the ventilation tunnel were experimentally generated, and after 24 hours, several features of the built turret were quantified, i.e., mass, height, number and surface area (aperture) of turret openings. Turret mass and height were similar in all experiments even when no airflow was provided in the ventilation tunnel. However, elevated CO 2 levels led to the construction of a turret with several minor openings and a larger total aperture. This effect was statistically significant at higher CO 2 levels of 5% and 10% but not at 1% CO 2 . The construction of a turret with several minor openings did not depend on the strong differences in CO 2 levels between the outflowing and the outside air, since workers also built permeated turrets even when the CO 2 levels inside and outside were both similarly high. We propose that the construction of turrets with several openings and larger opening surface area might facilitate the removal of CO 2 from the underground nest structure and could therefore be involved in the control of nest climate in leaf-cutting ants.

(see the publication for citations) For Atta vollenweideri, a species native to the clay-heavy soils of the Gran Chaco region in South America, the elevated carbon dioxide levels in the nest pose a major problem. Clay-heavy soils show low porosity and low air permeability [17], which hinders the removal of CO 2 from underground chambers and the supply of the nest with oxygen via diffusion with the surrounding soil. To facilitate gas exchanges, nests of Atta vollenweideri rely on a wind-induced ventilation mechanism taking advantage of the Bernoulli principle [18], similar to that involved in the ventilation of prairie dogs’ burrows [19]. The nests possess an aboveground nest mound permeated with up to 200 nest openings that are not all used as exits or entrances by the ants [20,21]. Inflow and outflow of air through the nest openings depend on their location on the nest mound. Surface wind is dragging air out of central tunnels, followed by an inflow of air at the periphery [18]. On top of central nest openings, the ants construct conspicuous turrets that are expected to enhance nest ventilation by elevating the tunnel opening and exposing them to greater wind velocities (Fig 1A and 1B).

Most of the building material used for the construction of turrets originates from the excavation of nest structures in the underground. Workers carry soil pellets from underground digging sites to the surface and deposit them around the nest openings, resulting in the formation of crater-like soil heaps, a common feature of ant nests in warmer climates [22]. Additionally, workers rearrange the soil pellets and import building material like twigs and grasses from the immediate vicinity to form such particular structures [23,24]. The variables that lead to turret construction and influence the turret shape, however, are still largely unknown. Jonkman observed an increase in turret height on Atta vollenweideri nests after heavy precipitation, and also the closure of some turret openings during rain or during the winter months [20], indicating that turret construction is influenced by environmental conditions. We hypothesized that the ants’ building behavior and the resulting structure of the turrets would depend on the colony’s current ventilation demands and thus might be influenced by the prevailing climatic conditions inside the nest. In the present study, we investigated turret-building behavior in the leaf-cutting ant Atta vollenweideri and the influence of climate-related parameters, i.e., airflow, air humidity and carbon dioxide levels in the outflowing nest air on the construction and structural features of the ventilation turrets.

Association with Other Organisms

Explore-icon.png Explore: Show all Associate data or Search these data. See also a list of all data tables or learn how data is managed.
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Apocephalus setitarsus (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Apocephalus vicosae (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Eibesfeldtphora trilobata (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Myrmosicarius brandaoi (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Myrmosicarius brandaoi (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Myrmosicarius gonzalezae (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).
  • This species is a host for the phorid fly Myrmosicarius gonzalezae (a parasitoid) (Quevillon, 2018) (encounter mode primary; direct transmission; transmission outside nest).



Images from AntWeb

Atta vollenweideri casent0173819 head 1.jpgAtta vollenweideri casent0173819 profile 1.jpgAtta vollenweideri casent0173819 dorsal 1.jpgAtta vollenweideri casent0173819 label 1.jpg
Worker. Specimen code casent0173819. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by ALWC, Alex L. Wild Collection.
Atta vollenweideri casent0173820 head 1.jpgAtta vollenweideri casent0173820 profile 1.jpgAtta vollenweideri casent0173820 dorsal 1.jpgAtta vollenweideri casent0173820 label 1.jpg
Worker. Specimen code casent0173820. Photographer April Nobile, uploaded by California Academy of Sciences. Owned by ALWC, Alex L. Wild Collection.



Atta mexicana

Atta insularis

Atta texana

Atta cephalotes

Atta colombica

Atta robusta

Atta sexdens

Atta saltensis

Atta vollenweideri

Atta bisphaerica

Atta goiana

Atta laevigata

Atta capiguara

Atta opaciceps

Based on Barrera, C.A. et al., 2021. Note that only selected species are included.


The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's Online Catalogue of the Ants of the World.

  • vollenweideri. Atta sexdens r. vollenweideri Forel, 1893e: 588 (s.w.q). ARGENTINA (no province data).
    • [Misspelled as wollenwiederi by Santschi, 1912e: 530, Santschi, 1922b: 363.]
    • Forel, 1912e: 179 (m.).
    • Combination in Atta (Neoatta): Gonçalves, 1942: 348; Borgmeier, 1959b: 374;
    • combination in Atta (Epiatta): Borgmeier, 1950d: 248.
    • Subspecies of laevigata: Forel, 1913l: 237, 240; Bruch, 1914: 216; Bruch, 1915: 529; Emery, 1924d: 354.
    • Subspecies of sexdens: Emery, 1913b: 259.
    • Status as species: Santschi, 1912e: 530; Forel, 1912e: 179; Forel, 1915c: 358; Gallardo, 1916d: 341; Bruch, 1917c: 154; Santschi, 1919f: 50; Santschi, 1922b: 363; Wheeler, W.M. 1925a: 36; Weber, 1938b: 205; Borgmeier, 1939: 422 (in list); Gonçalves, 1942: 348; Borgmeier, 1950d: 248; Kusnezov, 1953b: 338; Borgmeier, 1959b: 374 (redescription); Kempf, 1972a: 27; Zolessi, et al. 1988: 5; Cherrett & Cherrett, 1989: 54; Bolton, 1995b: 77; Wild, 2007b: 31; Bezděčková, et al. 2015: 115.
    • Senior synonym of tristis: Borgmeier, 1959b: 374; Kempf, 1972a: 28; Bolton, 1995b: 77.
  • tristis. Atta vollenweideri var. tristis Santschi, 1919f: 50 (w.) ARGENTINA (Santa Fe, Chaco, Formosa).
    • Subspecies of vollenweideri: Santschi, 1922b: 363; Borgmeier, 1939: 424.
    • Subspecies of sexdens: Borgmeier, 1950d: 253.
    • Junior synonym of vollenweideri: Borgmeier, 1959b: 374; Kempf, 1972a: 28; Bolton, 1995b: 77.



References based on Global Ant Biodiversity Informatics

  • Bezdeckova K., P. Bedecka, and I. Machar. 2015. A checklist of the ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of Peru. Zootaxa 4020 (1): 101–133.
  • Bonetto A. A. 1959. Las hormigas "cortadoras" de la Provincia de Santa Fé (generos: Atta y Acromyrmex). Santa Fé, Argentina: Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería (Dirección General de Recurzos Naturales), 79 pp.
  • Borgmeier T. 1939. Nova contribuição para o conhecimento das formigas neotropicas (Hym. Formicidae). Revista de Entomologia (Rio de Janeiro) 10: 403-428.
  • Borgmeier T. 1950. Atta-Studien (Hym. Formicidae). Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz. Rio de Janeiro 48: 265-292.
  • Borgmeier T. 1950. Estudos sôbre Atta (Hym. Formicidae). Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz. Rio de Janeiro 48: 239-263.
  • Bruch C. 1914. Catálogo sistemático de los formícidos argentinos. Revista del Museo de La Plata 19: 211-234.
  • Bruch C. 1917. Costumbres y nidos de hormigas. II. Anales de la Sociedad Cientifica Argentina 84: 154-168.
  • Canepuccia A. D., F. Hidalgo, J. L. Farina, F. Cuezzo, and O. O. Iribarne. 2016. Environmental harshness decreases ant β-diversity between salt marsh and neighboring upland environments. Wetlands DOI 10.1007/s13157-016-0777-0.
  • Cuezzo, F. 1998. Formicidae. Chapter 42 in Morrone J.J., and S. Coscaron (dirs) Biodiversidad de artropodos argentinos: una perspectiva biotaxonomica Ediciones Sur, La Plata. Pages 452-462.
  • Escalante Gutiérrez J. A. 1993. Especies de hormigas conocidas del Perú (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Revista Peruana de Entomología 34:1-13.
  • Farji Brener A. G., and A. Ruggiero. 1994. Leaf-cutting ants (Atta and Acromyrmex) inhabiting Argentina: patterns in species richness and geographical range sizes. Journal of Biogeography 21(4): 391-399.
  • Fernández, F. and S. Sendoya. 2004. Lista de las hormigas neotropicales. Biota Colombiana Volume 5, Number 1.
  • Forel A. 1912. Formicides néotropiques. Part II. 3me sous-famille Myrmicinae Lep. (Attini, Dacetii, Cryptocerini). Mémoires de la Société Entomologique de Belgique. 19: 179-209.
  • Forel A. 1913. Fourmis d'Argentine, du Brésil, du Guatémala & de Cuba reçues de M. M. Bruch, Prof. v. Ihering, Mlle Baez, M. Peper et M. Rovereto. Bulletin de la Société Vaudoise des Sciences Naturelles. 49: 203-250.
  • Gallardo A. 1916. Notes systématiques et éthologiques sur les fourmis attines de la République Argentine. Anales del Museo Nacional de Historia Natural de Buenos Aires 28: 317-344.
  • Gonçalves C. R. 1942. Contribuiça~o para o conhecimento do gênero Atta Fabr., das formigas saúvas. Bol. Soc. Bras. Agron. 5: 333-358.
  • Kempf, W.W. 1972. Catalago abreviado das formigas da regiao Neotropical (Hym. Formicidae) Studia Entomologica 15(1-4).
  • Kusnezov N. 1952. El género Camponotus en la Argentina (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Acta Zoologica Lilloana 12: 183-252.
  • Kusnezov N. 1953. La fauna mirmecológica de Bolivia. Folia Universitaria. Cochabamba 6: 211-229.
  • Kusnezov N. 1978. Hormigas argentinas: clave para su identificación. Miscelánea. Instituto Miguel Lillo 61:1-147 + 28 pl.
  • Pignalberi C. T. 1961. Contribución al conocimiento de los formícidos de la provincia de Santa Fé. Pp. 165-173 in: Comisión Investigación Científica; Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (Argentina) 1961. Actas y trabajos del primer Congreso Sudamericano de Zoología (La Plata, 12-24 octubre 1959). Tomo III. Buenos Aires: Librart, 276 pp.
  • Santschi F. 1912. Quelques fourmis de l'Amérique australe. Revue Suisse de Zoologie 20: 519-534.
  • Santschi F. 1919. Nouveaux formicides de la République Argentine. Anales de la Sociedad Cientifica Argentina. 87: 37-57.
  • Santschi F. 1922. Myrmicines, dolichodérines et autres formicides néotropiques. Bulletin de la Société Vaudoise des Sciences Naturelles 54: 345-378.
  • Santschi F. 1925. Fourmis des provinces argentines de Santa Fe, Catamarca, Santa Cruz, Córdoba et Los Andes. Comunicaciones del Museo Nacional de Historia Natural "Bernardino Rivadavia" 2: 149-168.
  • Vittar, F. 2008. Hormigas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) de la Mesopotamia Argentina. INSUGEO Miscelania 17(2):447-466
  • Vittar, F., and F. Cuezzo. "Hormigas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) de la provincia de Santa Fe, Argentina." Revista de la Sociedad Entomológica Argentina (versión On-line ISSN 1851-7471) 67, no. 1-2 (2008).
  • Weber N. A. 1938. The biology of the fungus-growing ants. Part IV. Additional new forms. Part V. The Attini of Bolivia. Rev. Entomol. (Rio J.) 9: 154-206.
  • Wheeler W. M. 1925. Neotropical ants in the collections of the Royal Museum of Stockholm. Arkiv för Zoologi 17A(8): 1-55.
  • Wild, A. L. "A catalogue of the ants of Paraguay (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)." Zootaxa 1622 (2007): 1-55.
  • Zolessi L. C. de, Y. P. Abenante, and M. E. de Philippi. 1988. Lista sistematica de las especies de Formicidos del Uruguay. Comun. Zool. Mus. Hist. Nat. Montev. 11: 1-9.
  • Zolessi L. C. de; Y. P. de Abenante, and M. E. Philippi. 1989. Catálogo sistemático de las especies de Formícidos del Uruguay (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Montevideo: ORCYT Unesco, 40 + ix pp.
  • de Zolessi, L.C., Y.P. de Abenante and M.E. Philippi. 1987. Lista sistemática de las especies de formícidos del Uruguay. Comunicaciones Zoologicas del Museo de Historia Natural de Montevideo 11(165):1-9
  • de Zolessi, L.C., Y.P. de Abenante and M.E. Phillipi. 1989. Catalago Systematico de las Especies de Formicidos del Uruguay (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Oficina Regional de Ciencia y Technologia de la Unesco para America Latina y el Caribe- ORCYT. Montevideo, Uruguay