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Leaf Cutter Ants Chew Up Photographer’s Camera Gear

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It’s not just the big guys you have to be worried about when setting up a camera trap in the jungle. As naturalist Phil Torres explains in this Jungle Diaries video, you should probably look out for ants too.

Torres is a biologist, conservationist, naturalist, and photographer, and he was in the Amazon rainforest with photographer Jeff Cremer of Rainforest Expeditions when they tried to set up a simple camera trap using a Canon 7D, an off-camera flash, and an IR sensor.

When the group left the night before, the setup looked like this:

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Everything was neatly bagged up to keep it out of the rain, and the gear was tested and in good condition. But when they arrived the next morning, they found all the bags and coverings gone, Jeff’s tripods and cables chewed up, and all of his gear waterlogged beyond saving.

The culprit? Thousands of these little guys:

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This is a leaf cutter ant, and it turns out Cremer and Torres had set up the trap just a few feet away from the ants’ nest. Overnight, the ants came and cut the bags to pieces, chewed into the gorillapods and cables, and left whatever gear was still working exposed to the elements so the rain could finish the job.

Check out the video below to see all the damage for yourself:

In all, the ants caused about $2,800 worth of damage by the video’s estimation, and that’s not including the damaged pride. And yes, in case you were wondering, that’s the same Jeff Cramer whose camera trap was colonized by termites previously… guy can’t catch a break.


Correction: An earlier version of this post said that this was all Phil’s gear and doing, but Jeff was kind enough to email us after the post went up to let us know they worked on this together. Jeff was showing Phil how he sets up camera traps in the rainforest and… well… you know what happened next.

Here’s a snapshot of the duo that Jeff sent our way earlier today:

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