Harpagoxenus sublaevis

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Harpagoxenus sublaevis
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Myrmicinae
Tribe: Crematogastrini
Genus: Harpagoxenus
Species: H. sublaevis
Binomial name
Harpagoxenus sublaevis
(Nylander, 1849)

Harpagoxenus sublaevis casent0178588 profile 1.jpg

Harpagoxenus sublaevis casent0178588 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels


This species is a slave-maker. In Russia (Zryanin & Zryanina, 2007) it is associated with Leptothorax acervorum and Leptothorax muscorum in boreal regions.

At a Glance • Slave-maker  • Ergatoid queen  



Pale yellowish brown to brown; head large, rectangular, with weakly concave occiput. Frontal carinae extend backward to enclose whole length of antennal scape. Antennae 11 segmented with intermediate segments strongly transverse and enlarged 4 segmented club. Eyes large, set midway at sides of head. Mesopropodeal furrow deep and distinct; propodeal spines broad and short. Femora and tibiae short and broadly rounded. Head and mesopropodeum longitudinally striate, petiole nodes and gaster smooth and shining. Whole body and appendages covered with long, acute, pale hairs. Length: 3.5-5.5 mm (Collingwood 1979).


Pyrenees to Caucasus; northern Italy to northern Norway (Collingwood 1979); China (Xu, 2012).

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Palaearctic Region: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland (type locality), France, Germany, Hungary, Iberian Peninsula, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


Workers are unable to forage outside the nest and are not capable of brood tending or feeding themselves. Host species workers (slaves) are needed for the continuation of the colony. In mixed colonies no host queen can survive, though unmated gynes of the host species frequently develop from raided pupae. They dealate and serve as slaves. Host brood is commonly not devoured. During raids, host species eggs are even discarded outside the host nest and are not carried to the slavemaker nest.

Harpagoxenus sublaevis is a species with queen polymorphism. Most functional queens are wingless ergatoid queens that usually look like large workers; alate queens are very rare and seem absent in northern parts of the range. A genetical mechanism is claimed to underlie this queen polymorphism.

Collingwood (1979) - In Denmark and Fennoscandia nests containing host species and inquiline are commonly found in twigs on the ground, tree stumps or under bark but in the mountains of Central Europe they occur rarely under stones.





The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.

  • hirtula. Myrmica hirtula Nylander, 1849: 45 (w.) FINLAND. Combination in Harpagoxenus: Emery, 1924d: 266. Junior synonym of sublaevis: Mayr, 1861: 56; Dalla Torre, 1893: 64. Revived from synonymy as subspecies of sublaevis: Emery, 1924d: 266; Stitz, 1939: 154. Junior synonym of sublaevis: Radchenko, 2007: 32.
  • sublaevis. Myrmica sublaevis Nylander, 1849: 33 (w.) FINLAND. Adlerz, 1896: 62 (q.m.); Viehmeyer, 1906: 58 (q.m.); Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1955b: 27 (l.). Combination in Tomognathus: Mayr, 1861: 56; in Harpagoxenus: Forel, 1893a: 167. Senior synonym of hirtula: Radchenko, 2007: 32. See also: Stitz, 1939: 151; Kutter, 1977c: 146; Buschinger, 1981: 211. Current subspecies: nominal plus caucasicus.



  • n = 20, 2n = 40 (Switzerland) (Buschinger et al., 1980; Hauschteck-Jungen & Jungen, 1983; Fischer, 1987).


  • Adlerz, G. 1896. Myrmekologiska Studier. 3. Tomognathus sublaevis Mayr. Bihang till Kongl. Svenska Vetenskaps-Akademiens Handlingar 21 (4): 1-76. [1896.] PDF (page 62, queen, male described)
  • Buschinger, A. 1966: Untersuchungen an Harpagoxenus sublaevis NYL. (Hym., Formicidae). I.- Freilandbeobachtungen zu Verbreitung und Lebensweise. Ins. Soc. 13, 5-16.
  • Buschinger, A. 1966: Untersuchungen an Harpagoxenus sublaevis NYL. Hymenoptera, Formicidae). II. Haltung und Brutaufzucht. Ins. Soc. 13, 311-322, 1966.
  • Buschinger, A. 1968: Untersuchungen an Harpagoxenus sublaevis NYL.(Hymenoptera, Formicidae). III. - Kopula, Koloniegründung, Raubzüge. Ins. Soc. 15, 89-104, 1968.
  • Buschinger, A. 1968: “Locksterzeln” begattungsbereiter ergatoider Weibchen von Harpagoxenus sublaevis NYL. (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Experientia 24, 297.
  • Buschinger, A. 1971: Weitere Untersuchungen zum Begattungsverhalten sozialparasitischer Ameisen (Harpagoxenus sublaevis NYL. und Doronomyrmex pacis KUTTER (Hym., Formicidae)). Zool. Anz. 187, 184-198.
  • Buschinger, A. 1972: Giftdrüsensekret als Sexualpheromon bei der Ameise Harpagoxenus sublaevis. Die Naturwissenschaften 59, 313-314.
  • Buschinger, A. 1974: Experimente und Beobachtungen zur Gründung und Entwicklung neuer Sozietäten der sklavenhaltenden Ameise Harpagoxenus sublaevis (NYL). Ins. Soc. 21, 381-406.
  • Buschinger, A. 1975: Eine genetische Komponente im Polymorphismus der dulotischen Ameise Harpagoxenus sublaevis. Die Naturwissenschaften 62, 239.
  • Buschinger, A. 1978: Genetisch bedingte Entstehung geflügelter Weibchen bei der sklavenhaltenden Ameise Harpagoxenus sublaevis (NYL.) (Hym., Form). Ins. Soc. 25, 163-172.
  • Buschinger, A. 1983: Sexual behaviour and slave raiding of the dulotic ant, Harpagoxenus sublaevis (NYL.) under field conditions (Hym., Formicidae). Ins. Soc. 30, 235-240.
  • Buschinger, A., Frenz, G., Wunderlich, M. 1975: Untersuchungen zur Geschlechtstierproduktion der dulotischen Ameise Harpagoxenus sublaevis (NYL.) (Hym., Formicidae). Ins. Soc. 22, 169-182.
  • Buschinger, A., Winter, U. 1975: Der Polymorphismus der sklavenhaltenden Ameise Harpagoxenus sublaevis (NYL.). Ins. Soc. 22, 333-362.
  • Buschinger, A., Winter, U. 1977: Rekrutierung von Nestgenossen mittels Tandemlaufen bei Sklavenraubzügen der dulotischen Ameise Harpagoxenus sublaevis (NYL.). Ins. Soc. 24, 183-190.
  • Buschinger, A., Winter, U. 1978: Echte Arbeiterinnen, fertile Arbeiterinnen und sterile Wirtsweibchen in Völkern der dulotischen Ameise Harpagoxenus sublaevis (NYL.) (Hym., Form.). Ins. Soc. 25, 63-78.
  • Buschinger, A. 1981. Biological and systematic relationships of social parasitic Leptothoracini from Europe and North America. Pp. 211-222 in: Howse, P. E., Clement, J.-L. (eds.) Biosystematics of social insects. Systematics Association Special Volume N (page 211, see also)
  • Collingwood, C. A. 1979. The Formicidae (Hymenoptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomol. Scand. 8:1-174.
  • Czechowski, W.; Czechowska, W. 1999a. New sites in Poland and notes on the biology of socially parasitic ants Formicoxenus nitidulus (Nyl.) and Harpagoxenus sublaevis (Nyl.) (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Fragm. Faun. (Warsaw) 42: 1-6 (page 1, record in Poland)
  • Forel, A. 1893b. Sur la classification de la famille des Formicides, avec remarques synonymiques. Ann. Soc. Entomol. Belg. 37: 161-167 (page 167, Combination in Harpagoxenus)
  • Kutter, H. 1977c. Hymenoptera, Formicidae. Insecta Helv. Fauna 6: 1-298 (page 146, see also)
  • Mayr, G. 1861. Die europäischen Formiciden. Nach der analytischen Methode bearbeitet. Wien: C. Gerolds Sohn, 80 pp. (page 56, Combination in Tomognathus)
  • Nylander, W. 1849 [1848]. Additamentum alterum adnotationum in monographiam formicarum borealium. Acta Soc. Sci. Fenn. 3: 25-48 (page 33, worker described)
  • Schumann, R., Buschinger, A. 1991: Selective acceptance of alien host species pupae by slaves of the dulotic ant, Harpagoxenus sublaevis (Hymenoptera, Formicidae, Myrmicinae). Ethology 88, 154-162.
  • Stitz, H. 1939. Die Tierwelt Deutschlands und der angrenzenden Meersteile nach ihren Merkmalen und nach ihrer Lebensweise. 37. Theil. Hautflüger oder Hymenoptera. I: Ameisen oder Formicidae. Jena: G. Fischer, 428 pp. (page 151, see also)
  • Viehmeyer, H. 1906. Beiträge zur Ameisenfauna des Königreiches Sachsen. Sitzungsber. Abh. Naturwiss. Ges. "Isis" Dres. 1906: 55-69 (page 58, queen, male described)
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1955b. The ant larvae of the myrmicine tribe Leptothoracini. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 48: 17-29 (page 27, larva described)
  • Winter, U., Buschinger, A. 1986: Genetically mediated queen polymorphism and caste determination in the slave-making ant, Harpagoxenus sublaevis (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Entomol. Gener. 11, 125-137.
  • Xu, Z.-H. 2012a. A newly recorded genus and species, Harpagoxenus sublaevis, from China with a key to the known species of Harpagoxenus of the world (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 59:19-25. PDF
  • Zryanin, V.A. and Zryanina, T.A. 2007. Novye dannye o faune murav’ev Srednego Povolzh’ya. Uspekhi Sovremennoj Biologii. 127:226-240. [in Russian]