Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Social and orientation behavior of Polyergus breviceps during slave-making raids

  • 71 Accesses

  • 29 Citations


In southeastern Arizona, Polyergus breviceps conducts slave raids on Formica gnava. Intraspecific territorial raids are frequent, and result in brood capture when the invaded colony is small. Target Formica colonies are located by one or more Polyergus scouts. Field tests show that scouts use optical orientation when returning from the target nest to their own colony, and when leading nestmates on the slave raid back to the Formica colony (Fig. 1). Both scouts and raiders deposit a chemical trail as they move out on the raid. After the raid, the Polyergus workers orient to their home nest by simultaneously using optical cues and the chemical trail deposited on the outbound raid.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Alloway TM (1979) Raiding behaviour of two species of slave-making ants, Harpagoxenus americanus (Emery) and Leptothorax duloticus Wesson (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Anim Behav 27:202–210

  2. Alloway TM (1980) The origins of slavery in Leptothoracine ants. Am Nat 115:247–261

  3. Alloway TM (1982) How the slave-making ant Harpagoxenus americanus affects the pupa-acceptance behavior of its slaves. In: Breed M Michener CH, Evans HE (eds) The biology of social insects. Westview Press, Boulder, Colo, pp 261–265

  4. Buschinger A, Alloway TM (1977) Population structure and polymorphism in the slave-making ant Harpagoxenus americanus (Emery) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Psyche 83: 233–242

  5. Buschinger A, Alloway TM (1978) Caste polymorphism in Harpagoxenus canadensis MR Smith (Hym, Formicidae). Insectes Soc 25:339–350

  6. Buschinger A, Alloway TM (1979) Sexual behavior in the slave-making ant, Harpagoxenus canadensis MR Smith, and sexual pheromone experiments with H. canadensis, H. americanus (Emery), and H. sublaevis (Nylander). Z Tierpsychol 49:113–119

  7. Czechowski W (1977) Recruitment signals and raids in slave-maker ants. Ann Zool (Warsaw) 34:1–23

  8. Darwin C (1859) On the origin of species. Murray, London

  9. Dobrzański J (1965) Genesis of social parasitism among ants. Acta Biol Exp (Warsaw) 25:59–71

  10. Dobrzańska J (1978) Problem of behavioral plasticity in the slave-making amazon ant Polyergus rufescens Latr and in its slave ants Formica fusca L. and Formica cinerea Mayr. Acta Neurobiol Exp 38:113–132

  11. Harman JR (1968) Some aspects of the ecology of the slave-making ant, Polyergus lucidus. Entomol News 79:217–223

  12. Henquell D, Abdi H (1981) Influence réspective des répères visuels et des répères chimique dans l'orientation de Formica polyctena au cours de l'exploitation d'une source de nouriture. Insectes Soc 28:47–66

  13. Hölldobler B (1976) Tournaments and slavery in a desert ant. Science 192:912–914

  14. Hölldobler B (1981) Foraging and spatiotemporal territories in the honey ant Myrmecocystus mimicus Wheeler (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 9:301–314

  15. Hölldobler B, Lumsden CJ (1980) Territorial strategies in ants. Science 210:732–739

  16. Jander R (1957) Die optische Richtungsorientierung der Roten Waldameise (Formica rufa L.). Z Vergl Physiol 40:162–238

  17. Kwait E, Topoff H (1983) Emigration raids by slave-making ants: a rapid-transit system for colony relocation. Psyche 90:307–312

  18. Marlin JC (1969) The raiding behavior of Polyergus lucidus in central Illinois (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). J Kans Entomol Soc 42:108–115

  19. Marlin JC (1971) The mating, nesting, and ant enemies of Polyergus lucidus Mayr. Am Midl Nat 86:181–189

  20. Regnier FE, Wilson EO (1971) chemical communication and “propaganda” in slave-making ants. Science 172:267–269

  21. Stuart RJ, Alloway TM (1982) Territoriality and the origin of slave raiding in leptothoracine ants. Science 215:1262–1263

  22. Talbot M (1967) Slave raids of the ant Polyergus lucidus. Psyche 74:299–313

  23. Talbot M (1968) Flights of the ant Polyergus lucidus Mayr. Psyche 75:46–52

  24. Topoff H, Lawson K (1979) Orientation of the army ant Neivamyrmex nigrescens: integration of chemical and tactile information. Anim Behav 27:429–433

  25. Wehner R, Duelli P (1971) The spatial orientation of desert ants, Cataglyphis bicolor, before sunrise and after sunset. Experientia 27:1364–1366

  26. Wehner R, Menzel R (1969) Homing in the ant Cataglyphis bicolor. Science 164:192–194

  27. Wheeler WM (1916) Notes on some slave raids of the western amazon ant (Polyergus breviceps). J NY Entomol Soc 24:107–118

  28. Wilson EO (1971) The Insect Societies. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass

  29. Wilson EO (1975) Leptothorax duloticus and the beginnings of slavery in ants. Evolution 29:108–119

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Topoff, H., LaMon, B., Goodloe, L. et al. Social and orientation behavior of Polyergus breviceps during slave-making raids. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 15, 273–279 (1984). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00292989

Download citation


  • Field Test
  • Optical Orientation
  • Orientation Behavior
  • Home Nest
  • Chemical Trail