As you may already know, Iceland doesn’t have as many species of wildlife as the rest of the world does. So when we have guests coming from abroad, we are extra excited. This month we got the news that two colonies of leaf-cutter ants have landed on this isolated island.
The leaf-cutter ants were in quarantine for the past two weeks, and now they have moved to the Tropical House in Reykjavík’s very own zoo, Húsdýragarðurinn, for display starting on Saturday. Marco Mancini, supervisor at the Tropical House, imported the ants. “They are still discovering the new place, but will be cutting leaves soon,” he said. Marco applied for an import permit in February and it was approved in July.
Iceland has no native ant species, thus making this occasion extra special. Leaf-cutter ants usually reside in a warmer climate, with a temperature between 25°C to 35°C and a humidity of 80% to 90%. If some of them escape from their glass container, they wouldn’t be able to survive in the Icelandic climate.
According to Marco, leaf-cutter ants are special because they are the only other animal species that grows crops. They cut fresh leaves as nutrition to grow their fungus garden, which serves as their source of food. Each of the two imported colonies has a mother queen and a fungus garden. The colony that will be on display has a few thousand workers, while the other one has a few hundred workers.