Social Parasitism

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Social parasitism is the coexistence of two or more ant species in one nest or colony. It involves a parasitic species which is dependent on one or several host species. The relationship can be obligatory or facultative, permanent or temporary. These relationships can take many forms and have been classified in various ways.

Holldobler & Wilson (1990), following a suggestion of Wasmann (1891), distinguished between "compound nests" and "mixed colonies". Compound nests (xenobiosis) involve two species of ants living together in the same nest but keeping their broods separate. It includes casual or regular nesting in close vicinity (plesiobiosis), stealing food from other species (cleptobiosis), stealing brood (lestobiosis) and sharing nests and trails (parabiosis). Mixed colonies comprise temporary parasites, slave-makers (dulosis) and inquilines, where the host workers care for the parasite brood, at least temporarily.

As an alternative, Buschinger (2009), in his review of social parasitism, proposed the following classification:

  • Xenobiosis (guest ants, sometimes called cleptobiosis or kleptobiosis) - The biology of Formicoxenus nitidulus provides natural history information about one representative guest ant.
  • Temporary parasitism (occurring together only during colony foundation) - The biology of Lasius umbratus provides natural history information about one representative temporarily parasitic ant.
  • Permanent parasitism with slavery (dulosis) - The biology of Temnothorax brunneus provides a representative account of dulosis.
  • Permanent parasitism without slavery (inquilinism) - The biology of Tetramorium inquilinum (as Teleutomyrmex schneideri) provides natural history information about one representative inquiline ant.

Parasitic Ant Species

This information has been modified from Buschinger, A. (2009) Social parasitism among ants: a review. (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 12: 219-235. Please cite the original publication as the source for this data.

Names, taxonomy, type of parasitism, and species range.

dDul = degenerate dulosis; Dul = dulosis, slave-maker; In = inquilinism; Tp = temporary parasitism; Xen = xenobiosis, guest ant.

Sortable table
Genus / Species Reference Subfamily Type Range Remarks
Acromyrmex ameliae DE SOUZA, SOARES & DELLA LUCIA, 2007 Myrmicinae In Brazil social parasite with workers
Acromyrmex insinuator SCHULTZ, BEKKEVOLD & BOOMSMA, 1998 Myrmicinae In Panama "Incipient" social parasite
Bothriomyrmex EMERY, 1869 Dolichoderinae Tp Old World, Australia Ca. 38 species + many subspecies
Bothriomyrmex decapitans SANTSCHI, 1911 Dolichoderinae Tp N-Africa
Camponotus universitatis FOREL, 1890 Formicinae In S-Europe
Cataglyphis hannae AGOSTI, 1994 Formicinae In N-Africa
Ectatomma parasiticum FEITOSA & FRESNEAU, 2008 Ectatomminae In Mexico Host E. tuberculatum
Formica dirksi WING, 1949 Formicinae In N-America
Formica rufa LINNAEUS, 1761 Formicinae Tp Eurasia Facultative Tp
Formica talbotae WILSON, 1977 Formicinae In N-America
Formica (Coptoformica) spp. MÜLLER, 1923 Formicinae Tp Eurasia Facultative Tp
Formica (Raptiformica) sanguinea LATREILLE, 1798 Formicinae Dul Eurasia Facultative Dul
Formicoxenus MAYR, 1855 Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Xen holarctic 7 species
Formicoxenus diversipilosus (SMITH, M.R. 1939) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Xen N-America worker-queen intermediates
Formicoxenus nitidulus (NYLANDER, 1846) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Xen Eurasia
Formicoxenus provancheri (EMERY, 1895) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Xen N-America
Formicoxenus quebecensis FRANCOEUR, 1985 Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Xen N-America
Harpagoxenus canadensis SMITH, 1939 Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Dul N-America
Harpagoxenus sublaevis (Nylander, 1849) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Dul Eurasia
Lasius fuliginosus (LATREILLE, 1798) Formicinae Tp Eurasia Hyperparasite
Lasius reginae FABER, 1967 Formicinae Tp Europe
Lasius umbratus (NYLANDER, 1846) Formicinae Tp Eurasia
Leptothorax faberi BUSCHINGER, 1983 Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini In Canada possible inquiline
Leptothorax goesswaldi KUTTER, 1967 Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini In Europe Host-queen-intolerant
Leptothorax kutteri BUSCHINGER, 1966 Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini In Europe Host-queen-tolerant
Leptothorax pacis (KUTTER, 1945) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini In Europe Host-queen-tolerant
Leptothorax paraxenus HEINZE & ALLOWAY, 1992 Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini In N-America
Leptothorax pocahontas (BUSCHINGER, 1979) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini In? N-America Parasitism questionable
Leptothorax wilsoni HEINZE, 1989 Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini In N-America
Manica parasitica CREIGHTON, 1934 Myrmicinae, Myrmicini In N-America
Megalomyrmex mondabora BRANDÃO, 1990 Myrmicinae * Central and S-America Agro-Predation
Megalomyrmex symmetochus WHEELER, 1925 Myrmicinae Xen? Panama
Monomorium inquilinum DuBois, 1981 Myrmicinae  ? Mexico
Monomorium pergandei (Emery, 1893) Myrmicinae In USA
Monomorium talbotae DuBois, 1975 Myrmicinae In USA, Michigan
Myrmecocystus spp. WESMAEL, 1838 Formicinae Dul? N-America Intraspecific!
Myrmica hirsuta ELMES, 1978 Myrmicinae In Europe
Myrmica karavajevi (Arnol'di, 1930) Myrmicinae In Eurasia
Myrmica laurae (Emery, 1907) Myrmicinae In Europe
Myrmica lemasnei Bernard, 1967 Myrmicinae In Europe
Myrmica myrmicoxena Forel, 1895 Myrmicinae Europe
Myrmica nefaria Bharti, 2012 xxxx Myrmicinae ? Europe
Myrmica schenckioides BOER & NOORDIJK, 2005 Myrmicinae In Europe
Myrmica semiparasitica FRANCOEUR, 2007 Myrmicinae Tp Canada Not confirmed
Myrmica vandeli BONDROIT, 1920 Myrmicinae Tp? Europe Not confirmed
Plagiolepis spp. MAYR, 1861 Formicinae In Europe, N-Africa Many independent
Plagiolepis ampeloni (FABER, 1969) Formicinae In S-Europe (= Aporomyrmex FABER, 1969)
Plagiolepis grassei LE MASNE, 1956 Formicinae In S-Europe Few own workers
Plagiolepis regis KARAVAIEV, 1931 Formicinae In Turkestan (= Paraplagiolepis FABER, 1969)
Plagiolepis xene STAERCKE, 1936 Formicinae In S-Europe (= Paraplagiolepis FABER, 1969)
Pogonomyrmex anergismus COLE, 1954 Mymicinae In N-America
Pogonomyrmex colei SNELLING, 1982 Mymicinae In N-America
Polyergus LA TREILLE, 1804 Formicinae Dul Holarctic 6 spp., several sspp.
Polyergus breviceps EMERY, 1893 Formicinae Dul N-America
Polyergus lucidus MAYR, 1870 Formicinae Dul N-America
Polyergus nigerrimus MARIKOVSKY, 1963 Formicinae Dul E-Asia
Polyergus rufescens (LATREILLE, 1798) Formicinae Dul Europe
Polyergus samurai YANO, 1911 Formicinae Dul Japan
Polyrhachis lama KOHOUT, 1994 Formicinae Xen SE-Asia
Polyrhachis lamellidens SMITH, 1874 Formicinae Tp? SE-Asia ??
Polyrhachis loweryi KOHOUT, 1990 Formicinae Xen Australia
Pheidole spp. WESTWOOD, 1839 Myrmicinae In World-wide Many independent
Pseudoatta argentina GALLARDO, 1916 Myrmicinae In S-America
Pseudomyrmex inquilinus WARD, 1996 Pseudomyrmecinae In S-America
Rossomyrmex minuchae TINAUT, 1981 Formicinae Dul Spain, Turkey
Rossomyrmex proformicarum ARNOL'DI, 1928 Formicinae Dul Central to East Asia
Solenopsis enigmatica DEYRUP & PRUSAK, 2008 Myrmicinae Tp? West Indies Not confirmed
Solenopsis fugax Latreille, 1798 Myrmicinae Facultative Xen Eurasia Xenobiotics colonies are common.
Strongylognathus spp. MAYR, 1853 Myrmicinae Dul, dDul Eurasia Ca. 25 species
Strongylognathus afer EMERY, 1884 Myrmicinae Dul N-Africa
Strongylognathus karawajewi PISARSKI, 1966 Myrmicinae dDul Europe Host-queen-tolerant
Strongylognathus minutus RADCHENKO, 1991 Myrmicinae Dul? Europe
Strongylognathus pisarskii POLDI, 1994 Myrmicinae Dul? Europe
Strongylognathus potanini RADCHENKO, 1995 Myrmicinae Dul? China
Strongylognathus testaceus (SCHENCK, 1852) Myrmicinae dDul Europe Host-queen-tolerant
Strongylognathus tylonus WEI, XU & HE, 2001 Myrmicinae Dul? China
Temnothorax spp. RUZSKY, 1902 Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Dul, dDul Europe, N-Africa Ca. 12 species
Temnothorax adlerzi (DOUWES, JESSEN & BUSCHINGER, 1988) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini dDul Greece Workerless
Temnothorax algerianus (CAGNIANT, 1968) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Dul N-Africa
Temnothorax bernardi (ESPADALER, 1982) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Dul S-Europe
Temnothorax birgitae (SCHULZ, 1994) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini dDul Tenerife Workerless
Temnothorax corsicus (EMERY, 1895) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini dDul S-Europe Workerless
Temnothorax gordiagini (Ruzsky, 1902) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Dul SE-Europe
Temnothorax kraussei (EMERY, 1915) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini dDul S-Europe Workers few to none
Temnothorax ravouxi (ANDRÉ, 1896) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Dul Europe
Temnothorax spp. MENOZZI, 1923 Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Dul, dDul S-Europe to Turkmenistan Ca. 9 species
Temnothorax americanus (EMERY, 1895) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Dul N-America
Temnothorax brunneus CAGNIANT, 1985 Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini dDul N-Africa Workerless
Temnothorax duloticus (WESSON, 1937) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Dul N-America
Temnothorax kutteri CAGNIANT, 1973 Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Dul S-Europe
Temnothorax minutissimus (SMITH, 1942) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini In N-America Host-queen-tolerant
Temnothorax muellerianus (FINZI, 1922) Myrmicinae, Formicoxenini Dul S-Europe
Temnothorax sp. S. Cover, in litt. Formicoxenini Dul N-America
Tetramorium inquilinum KUTTER, 1950 Myrmicinae In Europe Host-queen-tolerant
Tetramorium atratulum (SCHENCK, 1852) Myrmicinae In Europe Queen-intolerant
Tetramorium kutteri TINAUT, 1990 Myrmicinae In S-Europe Host-queen-tolerant
Vollenhovia nipponica KINOMURA & YAMAUCHI, 1992 Myrmicinae In Japan