Pillage Ant Discovered That Raids Other Colonies, Takes Slaves

Tuesday, 14 Jan 2014 11:45 AM

By Morgan Chilson

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Scientists announced they have discovered the pillage ant, an insect that sneaks into the homes of other ants, takes them and their offspring prisoner, and makes them slaves.

The ants enter the nuts or acorns where other ants live and, bearing a stinger weapon that causes paralysis and death, take over, Live Science reported. Their formal name is Temnothorax pilagens, which is in part from the Latin word for plunder or pillage.

Researchers watching these ants, which live in the forests of northeastern United States, said the raiding parties of pillage ants could be “highly aggressive or relatively peaceful,” resulting in deaths of five percent to 100 percent of the ant population they attack, Live Science said.

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Scientists believe the pillage ants may use some kind of “chemical camouflage” as they launch their attacks, Live Science said, primarily because there is little to no resistance from the ants they attack.

The life of captured ants can be brutal, as they are made to work in the pillage ants slave workforce, Live Science reported.

These pillage ants aren’t the only ones in the ant community to enslave other ants, according to North Carolina State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Slavemaking ants “oppress another species of ants into sustaining their colony,” a webpage about ant behavior explained. These ants often don’t have the ability to take care of their queen or rear their baby ants and might not even be able to hunt for food. So they invade another colony and force the ants to do those tasks for them.

CALS said slavemaking ants may either kill the other colony’s queen and replace her with their own, or they raid another colony and steal eggs and bring them back to their own nest. A slavemaking ant colony with 3,000 members may have as many as 6,000 slaves.

NBC News likened the pillage ant behavior to the popular “Game of Thrones” book and television series.

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