What are these ants that seem to be moving their eggs? - Steve, Alberta, Canada



Hey everyone,

I've always found ants to be one of the most fascinating creatures on this planet, and while I was walking on a path the other day, I found these red ants moving back and forth along the path transporting their eggs. Just wondering if anyone can identify it and if someone could direct me to way to identify ants in my area on my own, that would be fantastic. I'm located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and that is where this photo was taken.

Steve

DSC_3969.JPGView image

Hi Steve,

Thanks so much for the great photo. I have to warn you that what I'm about to say might be so fascinating that it will make your mind explode. These ants are transporting pupae (homologous to the "coccoon" stage that caterpillars go through before they become butterflies or moths), but there's a good chance that it's not their pupae. Members of the genus Formica are tricky to identify, but I'm willing to bet that this one you observed belongs to one of the species that actually "enslaves" or "domesticates" closely related species of ants (such as members of the sanguinea group, like Formica aserva). The workers run into a nearby colony, and forceably remove the silk-encased pupae from the other species. When these pupal ants emerge as adults, they think they are in their home colony, but are actually unwitting servants to anther species! For an interesting discussion on what exactly the common name of this behavior should be ("domestication", "slave-rading", "piracy", etc.) check out this post by Alex Wild and this post by frequent AntBlog contributor James Trager.

Hope this helps!
best,
Jesse Czekanski-Moir & the AntAsk Team

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