NC Museum of Natural Sciences researcher releases detailed video of leaf-cutting ants, donating revenue to tree foundation

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A researcher at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is donating to a good cause with the money made from hyper-detailed videos of leaf-cutting ants.

Adrian Smith, the head of the Evolutionary Biology and Behavior Research Lab at the museum, posts monthly educational videos of ant species, each giving viewers a detailed perspective of how the insects function.

"Visualize ants in a way that no one has before. I want to sort of inspire people by noticing the details that are around them," Smith said,

This time around Smith decided to show a microscopic look at the leaf-cutting ant, donating the revenue from his YouTube videos to non-profit Arbor Day Foundation.

The non-profit looks to plant 20 million trees by 2020.

The video showing the ant's powerful bite, as they put a head mostly made of muscle to good use.

"The head is 25 percent of their entire body mass, so they are jaw chomping machines," Smith added.

The insects, known as the original farmers to some researchers, tear apart the leaves and take them to their nests, where they use those pieces to create fungus. That fungus becomes the main source of nutrients for the one to eight million ants in the colony.

"They actually grow antibiotic bacteria on their bodies, which they use to medicate," Smith said.

A method that protects the colony from spreading disease, something Smith could be utilized in the medical field.

Smith says incorporating a campaign from the Arbor Day Foundation into his educational video is will help the environment and ants prosper.

"I think it's appropriate to give whatever I've gotten out of the ants back to a society that will actually support forest ecosystem health," Smith said.
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