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Illustration Friday: Jungle

Leaf Cutter Ants

When I was in the rainforest in Costa Rica several years ago I saw what looked like a long green ribbon trailing through the jungle. It turned out to be leaf cutter ants that chew off and carry pieces of leaf that weigh at least 20 times their own body weight–like a human carrying a tractor. Leaf-cutter ants don't eat the leaves–they use the leaves to feed fungus that they cultivate and eat (yum). They live in colonies with three to eight million ant buddies. A friend of mine who lived in a small town in Guatemala for a year had problems with leaf cutter ants coming into their little house and stealing their vegetables piece by piece. Since the jungle had been cleared in their area, the ants had learned to shop for their greens in people's kitchens–made easier since there were no refrigerators and the produce was sitting out on the table. And I thought I had an ant problem! (Ink and watercolor in Moleskine watercolor notebook.)

15 replies on “Illustration Friday: Jungle”

Thanks Jana for your comment on my IF illustration… I had a look at the watercolour paintings on your sketchbook and website, they are really inspiring.

I haven’t really got into using watercolours so far, but from now on I’m determined to use them more.


I am so glad you commented on my blog so I could enjoy your very happy and toothy leaf-cutter ants. Their little curley ques of hair crack me up, as well as their slight overbites! What a treat that you had the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica and experience these creatures up close!


Beautiful watercolors! How fascinating that must have been to have seen in person! Very sad that animals of all kinds all over the world are losing their habitat and go foraging for whatever they can find elsewhere, often in human environments. Thanks for your comments on my blog!


Dear Jana, very nice paintings!! I came to that page while looking for pictures from leaf cutter ants, because I gonna publish an article about them in my small magazine ZOOM, from the Peninsula de Nicoya Costa Rica. I would really like to also publish your two paintings from the leaf cutters. So I want to ask you for permission to use them, of course I would put your copyright and your name to it. If you are interested you can e-mail me at, I would ask you if you could send me the painting in a higher resolution to have a good print result.
Thanks for your atension
andrea Pieke


Hi Andrea,
I’d be delighted to have you use those leaf cutter paintings. How quickly do
you need the files? I appreciate your consideration in making the request.
I’ll need to rescan the images since I’m sure I only saved them in low res
format (and first I’ll need to find the sketchbook they live in from a stack
of 20 or so sketchbooks.

Do you live in Costa Rica? I wrote, illustrated and (self) published a small
book about my travels in Costa Rica about 10 years ago. The trip was
memorable and I loved the country and would love to go back again some day.



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