Mating Behavior and Colony Founding of the Slave-Making AntFormica sanguinea (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)

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The mating and postmating behavior of reproductives belonging to two sympatric dulotic colonies of the facultative slave-making ant Formica sanguinea was analyzed in the field. Our observations showed that the European blood-red ant adopts a reproductive behavior similar to the "male aggregation syndrome." Newly mated females return to a dulotic colony and often wait for a raid. Following a slave raid is an advantageous strategy to locate and invade host nests and to establish a new dulotic colony. In the laboratory, the following modes of colony founding were studied: independent, adoption, alliance, usurpation, and brood raiding. Independent foundation was possible only when several females were kept together. Alliance was obtained with females of two potential slave species (F. cunicularia, F. rufibarbis). Usurpation and adoption were more frequent in the incipient than in the mature host colonies. Mixed colonies were always obtained after the sack of the host pupae. It seems likely that, rather than conspecific adoption followed by budding, F. sanguinea relies on temporary parasitism to start new colonies.

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