In 1991 Andrew Stephenson travelled to the island nation of Trinidad to fulfill a life long dream. Having previously bought a colony of leaf cutting ants from David Straddling, who was based at Exeter University, he then set out to go and see this remarkable social insect in the wild, and ultimately managed to bring back a few colonies which were distributed to his first ever customers including Marwell Zoo, Bristol Zoo and Belfast Zoo. Back then there were very few public attractions that had leaf cutters on show. They were new and considered a challenge to exhibit. Andrew, however, had the advantage that he was an experienced aquarium builder,
having supplied glass fish tanks to pet shops for several years prior to getting involved with leaf cutters. He built a glass nest unit for his first colony and started the long process of learning what was needed to maintain colonies over a long period of time. Innovations he developed were ‘dump’ chambers where the ants could store the spent fungus and debris from the colony, the concept of ‘wet heat’ which ensures that humidity is not compromised when the temperature is kept at 25C.
Utilising his manufacturing skills, Andrew designed and built many different versions of
the basic housing unit he developed in the early 1990’s and adapted the original concept to a version that overcame all of the challenges that providing life support for these insects presented. Now the unit supplied by Andrew is by far the most suitable housing available on the world wide market for commercial displays. So much so that www.leafcuttingants.com offers a unique guarantee. If a colony of leaf cutting ants is housed in one of our housing units and the colony dies within the first year, we will replace the colony for free. No other livestock supplier would ever offer a 12 month guarantee on their livestock, such is the confidence we have in our product!
another series of initiatives. Always looking at ways of moving forward and bringing innovation to the market, Andrew has finally managed to organise permission from several South American countries to bring species of Leaf Cutters to market that have never been kept before. Most notably, Grass cutters from the plains of northern Argentina. The problems of providing leaves for leaf cutters in winter has dogged the keepers of these ants in temperate countries and grass cutters could just be the innovation needed to provide green foraging material all year round. We are also looking at Atta laevigata, the largest of the leaf cutters, and Atta texana, a polygynous species with more than one queen!
Now, in 2019, 28 years after that first expedition to Trinidad, Andrew is launching
Acromyrmex coronatus, known as the most beautiful Attine and Acromyrmex lundii are fantastic candidates for study or private collections.
As well as new species, a range of new services and products are being launched this year. Keeping up with the times, our latest nest tank comes fully featured with online connectivity to allow monitoring of the health of the colony and the various parameters within the nest. These units are fitted with sensors and cameras to allow our team at leafcuttingant.com HQ to remotely assess how the ants are doing and to either visit to correct a problem or contact the keeping staff to advise them of any remedial action that is needed. We are also offering servicing of units each year and, if needed, more regular interventions to check on the well-being of the ants. Mid year will see the launch of our leaf and forage material delivery service, whereby clients may have suitable foraging material delivered to them all year round. This is proving popular in exhibitions of leaf cutting ants that are based in displays situated in city centres where access to suitable leaves may be difficult. However across the
board this service will help in winter and save money every day when keepers do not have to forage themselves for leaves.
Another innovation you can see on this site are a series of pages under the heading ‘Display Options’. Here prospective leaf cutting ant keepers can answer a series of questions and arrive at a point where they will pretty well know the ideal type of public display that would best suit their needs and their facilities. Many times we engage in long conversations on the phone or via an exchange of emails establishing what would be best and how to set the display up in each location. Now this tool means that when we finally do talk with a possible client, it is an informed conversation and many of the issues we would spend time discussing have already been resolved.
www.leafcuttingants.com is a team, not of one person but of several. As each job demands, so we provide the specialist best suited to complete the particular assignment. We also have many people working on our behalf, all over the tropics, collecting and helping with paperwork and permits. All together a team effort.
Please enjoy the site and please come back to me with your comments, good or bad, based on what you think I look forward to your feedback.
Andrew Stephenson, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0)7876825726