Amazon ants (polyergus)

Polyergus rufescens

Amazon Ant (Polyergus)…

Polyergus rufescens
Profile view of ant Polyergus rufescens by April Nobile / © / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Amazon ants (genus Polyergus) are parasitic insects that can even be described as “ant pirates”. They are useless at taking care of themselves. They can’t even care for their own young, partly because they have razor-sharp mandibles (the mouth part), but mostly because they are adapted to living off their hosts, the Formica ants. Due to their dependence on others, they have lost the ability to perform even the most basic tasks, like feeding themselves!

One solitary Polyergus queen invades a Formica nest. Then she kills the existing Formica queen, and the Formica ants accept her as their new queen. These Formica ants then produce the first brood of Polyergus ants. This is a rather complicated and prolonged process. If there are not enough host workers, then the Formica queen is allowed to live until she has sired enough workers. Once she has done so though, she is immediately killed. This is how a new Polyergus colony is founded.

Formica integroides worker ant
Formica integroides worker ant by Alex Wild cc0

These ants have their own staff of Formica ants. The Polyergus invade the Formica ant colonies and steal their brood and pupae, holding them captive. The captive pupae are raised by the existing Formica workers. Amazon ants therefore live in mixed colonies of Polyergus/Formica ants. The slave ants care for the brood, feed the Polyergus adults, maintain the colony and also care for the mother queen. Basically, the Formica ants do all the real work, and the Polyergus ants just go out raiding other colonies.

Amazon ants (also known as slave-raiding ants) are featured in the following books:
25 Beastly Bugs and Insects
25 Amazon Rainforest Animals

The YouTube video playlist below contains videos about Amazon ants. Details of the videos featured are underneath.

The Playlist:

  1. Slavery Rife Among Lake Tahoe’s Ant Colonies byby ForaTv
  2. Polyergus: the slave-making ant [la hormiga amazona europea] by José María Gómez Durán
  3. Polyergus rufescens 1 by formicarium
  4. Polyergus rufescens 2 by formicarium
  5. Polyergus rufescens 3 by formicarium
  6. Polyergus rufescens 4 by formicarium
  7. Polyergus rufescens queen by myrmecostore


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