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Abstract

Host selection behaviour during colony foundation of newly inseminated Chalepoxenus muellerianus females belonging to three different imprinting types was investigated. Imprinting occurs both in larvae and in the young adults. It strongly influences the slavemakers' host choice. Young females get imprinted onto that slave species which is already present in the slavemaker colony. If nests of several potential host species are present in the habitat, the females will prefer the ‘familiar’ species for colony foundation. In addition to the imprinting influences, an innate preference of C. muellerianus for its main host species Leptothorax unifasciatus was demonstrated. Host selection behaviour of C. muellerianus females therefore depends on a blend of innate and learned characters. A genetically mediated preference of a certain host species can be reinforced by imprinting-like phenomena. On the other hand, the same processes probably facilitate a change of the host species, for example in habitats, where the main host species is rare, and females are forced to switch over to other potential host species for colony foundation.