January 14, 2014
Pillage Ant Takes Other Insects As Slaves Using 'Chemical Camouflage'

The aptly named 'Pillage ant' - a new species of ant which was discovered recently - apparently raids the acorn castles of other insects. The clever little ants do this in order to capture the other species and use them as slaves.

The ants, thought to be indigenous to the northeastern United States, are mainly found on the floors of forests and woods. Their real (Latin) name is Temnothorax pilagens. In English, the word pilagens can be translated to mean: 'to pluck, plunder or pillage.'

They may be small, but the Pillage ants are smart, very smart indeed. They invade small openings in hollow nuts and acorns, where other insects live, but are able to do so without big armies; sometimes they even send a lone ant to scout out the situation.

The ants are tiny, just a fraction of an inch in size, but that doesn't hinder the pillage ants from conquering their prey with a quick jab to paralyze and kill them, or even take them to work as slaves at their colonies.

The raids, according to researchers who have seen them, range from "highly aggressive to relatively peaceful." Researchers found that in six in 11 raids the offspring of the massacred ants were taken by the pillage ants in addition to the adults.

At the moment it is thought that the pillage ants only attack two other species, namely the Temnothorax longispinosus and the Temnothoraxambiguous. Neither of which showed much reaction to the impending attack on them.

Scientists believe that pillage ants have some kind of "chemical camouflage," which neutralizes their chemical signature and allows them to attack undetected.