Seaside and Wayside, Book Two  by Julia McNair Wright

The Slave Ants

N OW I must tell you about the slave ants and their owners. The chief family of the slave-making ants is called "The Shining," for its body shines with a gloss like varnish.

The slave-making ants and their slaves are found in many parts of the world. The masters are of a light or red color, with a bright gloss. The slave ants are dark or black.

In nests where slaves are held the masters never do any work. They make war and steal slaves, or slave babies. The slave ants do all the work. If a war rises, they also fight for the hill and their owners.

The army of the slave makers will march to the hill of a tribe of ants which they wish to seize for slaves. They carry off the pupa-cases, where the little new ants are getting legs and wings.

These baby ants are taken to the hill of the owners and brought up with their own young. No slave-ant eggs are laid in a hill, for the queens lay all the eggs, and the queens are not slaves. The slaves are stolen when they are eggs, or larvæ.

The owners seem to be very kind to their little slaves, and as the slaves grow up and fill the hill they seem to do very much as they please.

The slaves build new hills and take their owners to live in the new home. If a mistress ant wishes to wander off her hill, her slaves drag her back. If she does not wish to move to her new home, her slaves carry her off, all the same.

The slave-owning ants walk about their hill in an idle way. If war comes, then they fight bravely.

The owners do not build the house, nor nurse their babies, nor feed themselves. Often they do not even clean their own bodies. They leave all these duties to the slaves. The slaves feed their owners, and brush and clean them, as a servant cleans his master's coat. When the ants are to make a move, the slaves pick up their masters, and carry them away.

How can they do that? The ants carry all burdens in their jaws. The slave and the master lock their jaws, the owner curls up the back of her body, and the slave carries her off.

The grip of an ant's jaw is very strong. She can carry things much larger than her own body.

There is an ant which uses the pine needles for food. She carries the bits of pine laid over her back much as a man carries a gun. There is a little groove in this ant's head, where the bits of pine rest. I have seen very large hills covered with carefully cut bits of pine needles. I think they have been sucked dry and then cast out.

There is an ant called the "parasol ant," because it cuts off tiny bits of leaf, and carries them along. Each ant holds a piece of leaf over its head, like a parasol.


The Parasol Ants

An army of this kind on the march looks very funny. These ants line their nests with bits of leaf, to keep the dirt from falling in.

These parasol ants are very large. Their nests cover a large space. The bits of leaf are cut about the size of a dime. The ants carry them in their jaws, each piece by a little end left for a stem.

We have some parasol ants in this country, in Florida and Texas, and there are many of them in South America.