How Do Ants Take Slaves?

Several species of ants engage in “slave-taking” to serve their masters. The process is similar to humans domesticating animals to perform tasks for them. However, the ants themselves don’t know that they’re slaves.

A study of slave-makers in the United States revealed some unusual behaviors. Slaves were abducted from other colonies. Their offspring were neglected, but the slave-makers tended to feed them to their masters.

The queens of some species are more powerful than the rest. Their presence may increase the chances of survival for their neighbors. However, they also pose a threat to their masters.

Some species also have the capability to incite a full-scale revolt. The queen ant lays eggs to raise young ants for the colony. Once the colony is established, the queen relaxes. She may also release chemicals to reassure her hosts that she’s in charge.

Another type of slave-maker is a parasite. These workers take over other colonies, bringing in more slaves.

Species like Temnothorax pilagens take over colonies without actually killing them. This allows them to benefit from the arrangement for years.

Another type of slave-maker is Diacamma indicum. This species can also be found in the United States. They perform individual thefts, but their pattern is different than the other species.

Several species of ants also participate in “slave-taking”. This is less common than chemical mimicry. This means that the ants use a more flexible chemical camouflage.

One interesting fact is that ants have the ability to recognize one another. This is done by hydrocarbons on their cuticles.