Colonies of dracula ants may contain as many as 10,000 workers, winged males and several wingless queens (4) (5). The workers go out each day to capture prey, which they stun using venom, to bring back to the colony for the larvae to feed upon. It is the unique and bizarre feeding habits of the queen and workers, however, which has fascinated researchers. Hungry Dracula ants scratch and chew holes into their larvae and suck out the hemolymph, the ant equivalent of blood (4). This practice has been described as a form of ‘non-destructive cannibalism’, since the larvae are not killed by it. Nevertheless, when hungry workers enter the chamber, the larvae have been observed attempting to flee and escape their fate (6).
Winged males are thought to disperse by flying to other colonies before mating (4). However, the colonies reproduce by budding (fission), with colony fission in ants being synonymous with short-range dispersal on foot because the queens are wingless. This has dramatic consequences on both gene flow and colonisation patterns and thus Dracula ants may be more susceptible to habitat disturbance (8).