Cultural Correspondant Abhishek Bhattacharyya recently stopped by the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium in New Orleans. While there, he captured an important scene:

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This is, of course, a colony of Atta cephalotes, one of several species of leaf cutter ants. Correspondant Bhattacharyya also shared the following:

One man who worked at the museum came up since we were spending a while beside the leaf cutter ants, and told us he even recently saw one of these in the swamps here, and he showed us a picture of one on his finger. 

Based on known distributions of species in the genus Atta, it is much more likely that this fellow saw a related species, Atta texana. In any case, this is exactly what an effective museum should do – motivate visitors to remember and dwell upon previous experiences with the natural world, and then promote further discovery.

Forget Mardi Gras and jazz – visit New Orleans for its insect museum!