1902 Encyclopedia > Ant > Slave-Making Ants

(Part 9)


(B) Familiar Ants (Formica) (cont.)

Slave-Making Ants

Some of the most curious and extraordinary traits in ant- character relate to the acquiring by certain ants (e.g. Amazon ants) of the pupae or immature young of other species and the training and subjection of these pupae as slaves and servitors. Regular raids and forays appear to be made by the slave-making ants upon the nests of certain species, the pupae of which are captured, and when developed brought into bondage and subjection to the captors.

No closer imitation of the ways of man could well be found in the entire animal economy; and the circumstances of these curious cases have been so thoroughly investigated that the matter is placed above the possibility of doubt or error. The relative position of the masters and slaves varies greatly, the extreme of hard servitorship being seen in some cases, whilst in other cases the position of the slaves is much easier. The slaves of Formica sanguinea are aided by their masters in the work of the colony. But in the case of Formica rufescens the labours of the slaves are greatly increased, -- the entire work of the community devolving upon the unfortunate captives, and the neuters, laborious in other species, being merely employed in the duty of capturing fresh servitors.

This latter trait also appears among the Amazon-ants, which laterally stir neither "hand nor foot," nor make any effort to help themselves, but are waited upon and attended in the most devoted manner by their willing serfs.

The slave-making forays are by no means invariably destitute of bloodshed or warfare, and frequent and hot combats appear to be engaged in between the would-be masters and the species of intended slaves. Once captured, developed, and domiciled within the nests of their masters, the slave-ants appear to be thoroughly at home, and no effort at insurrection or attempt to gain their freedom appears ever to be made. The early state of development in which the pupae are generally captured, would necessarily favour the complete domestication of the captured ants within the home of the slave-making community; and the ants appear to possess and exhibit the greatest care and solicitation for the welfare of their serfs, -- the slaves being carried in the mouths of their owners when the latter shift their abode, or undertake any expedition leading them from home.

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