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Does Slavery Exist among Animals?

Among the 15,000 or so known species of ants, most are respectable ant citizens that follow the rules, do their work, and get along with other ants in the colony. But in a small number of ant societies, slave-maker ants are known to infiltrate other nests, steal broods, and brainwash the young ants as they mature. These abducted ants fall in line and perform the tasks necessary to keep the rogue colony going.

Slave-making ants mostly live in the tropics, but a subspecies has been found raiding nests in the United States, too.

Opportunistic ants:

  • Slave-maker ants typically conduct about six raids each summer, killing adults in other nests and enslaving the pupae.
  • The pillaging ants evade detection by using a chemical cloak. Often, the victimized colony has no idea that it has been infiltrated. If it does, the attacked ants may fight back, or they may just abandon the nest.
  • If confronted, the pillaging ants are relentless, using stingers to stab attackers in a soft spot in their necks. Their victims are paralyzed and then die.
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