Eco-ethological Study on Raiding Behaviour of the European Amazon Ant, Polyergus rufescens Latr. (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)


Dipartimento di Biologia e Fisiologia Generali, Università degli Studi, Via delle Scienze, 1-43100 Parma.


In this paper we report the results of a detailed study on the behavioural ecology of slave raiding in the European amazon ant, Polyergus rufescens Latr. The field study, supported also by a video-tape recording technique, was conducted over an unbroken period of 53 days, during which observations of the activity of the residents (both slave-makers and slaves) were made for 10 h each day. It was possible to observe 38 slave raids distributed over 32 days, among which 27 were followed by the sack of 10 different nests of Formica cunicularia Latr., whereas 11 failed because of various reasons. Simple, compound and multiple raids occurred. We recorded the timing, frequency, distance, and direction of slave raids, including the number of participants and the type of captured brood. Moreover, particular attention was paid to the atmospheric conditions present at the moment of the raid onset. Information was also collected about the behaviour of the “activators” and the scouts before and during the movement of the storming column. Both dealate and winged P. rufescens queens, having emerged from the mixed colony during 6 sexual flights, were seen following the outbound raiding column during 4 raids. Finally, some peculiar behaviour, such as digging out the soil near the target nest to facilitate the entry of the raiding swarm, and the pillage of adult ants (eudulosis) was recorded and described. Data have been compared with what is known about the other species of the genus Polyergus.