Clever Humans


Clever Humans do the darnedest things!


7 June 2009

The Slave Maker Queen

by Patrick

When a Queen Slave Maker ant mates, she does not make her own nest as a queen from another species would. Instead, she fakes her own death near another ant colony. The enemy ant soldiers drag her body to their queen in preparation for consuming her. When in the Queen’s presence the Slave Maker Queen springs to life and slays the enemy queen. She disembowels the enemy queen and rolls in the viscera, covering herself in the enemy queen’s sent. Ants identify one another by sent. The workers think the Slave Maker Queen is their own queen and tend to the eggs she lays.

But this is only the beginning. A Slave Maker Queen produces only soldiers. She needs the captured colony’s workers to feed her soldiers. As the colony grows, the Slave maker Queen soon runs short on workers. She needs more slaves to gather food for the growing colony. To gather more slaves, she sends out raiding parties to attack other ant colonies. The raiding party slaughter any adults they find and steal the eggs and larvae of the other colony. These foreign children are raised by the Slave Maker Queen as new slaves for her captured colony.

The Slave Maker Queen’s soldiers are superior fighters to nearly all other ants. In battle they form into a ball around their enemies, with their mandibles facing inward. The ants tear at their enemies with their mandibles. These fights are gruesome and usually end with ant body parts strewn across the battlefield.

Another method used by slavemaking ants is replacing the queen of the captive colony. The queen of an established slavemaking colony will produce new queens who leave the colony to develop their own colony. The young slavemaking queen will wait outside of the colony she is leaving and follow a group of raiding slave makers into her new colony. As the worker slavemakers raid this colony for eggs, the queen takes advantage of the battle by using it to sneak into the colony. Once it finds the queen, it kills her and takes her place. The new queen mimics the old queen by consuming pheromones from her body and releasing them to the attending ants. This new queen having mated with a slavemaking male earlier begins to produce new slave makers. Other variations on these hostile takeovers include one South American species whose workers secrete a chemical on a host colony that causes the ants of the host colony to evacuate the nest. In their haste to leave, pupae will be left behind. These developing ants are then taken back to the slave maker nest. Another variation is in a European species that attacks ants that are significantly larger in size. The queen invades a nest by clinging on the rightful queen and slowly chokes her to death.