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Natural History: P. cf. umbratus is more widely distributed and more abundant in Missouri than is true P. breviceps or any other Polyergus, especially in the Ozarks. Its populations also seem less vulnerable to habitat disturbance. This is one of the storied Amazon ants, often referred to in popular and scientific literature as slave-maker ants, though the term is not analogically (nor politically!) correct. The relationship with the host Formica is a form of parasitism, roughly analogous to humans stealing the young of apes to raise use as a labor force. Note that mixed colonies arising from brood-robbery and containing a queen of Polyergus (or other dulotic parasite), should be considered as belonging to the parasite, and not as a parasitized colony of the host species.
New colonies originate through mated Polyergus queens invading a host colony or teaming up with a recently mated host Formica queen. If the host worker force is ample, the Formica queen is killed right away, but if host workers are not present or are few, the Polyergus queen awaits the maturation of a sufficient host worker force before killing their mother. In the mixed colony, she is accepted and treated by host workers as their own queen. In a mature Polyergus colony the host worker population is maintained by spectacular, mid- to late afternoon, nest-to-nest sorties in which the host pupae are stolen by raiding parties of the Amazon ants. In a Polyergus colony, Formica workers usually outnumber the parasite population five-fold or more. In general, the behavior and ecology of the mixed colony is similar to that of a large colony of the host species. In some Polyergus, mating is reported to take place between winged queens who accompany brood raids and males that fly in to meet them, but in Missouri, both queens and males fly away from the nest and mate elsewhere, about 2 hours before these raids begin.