The ‘slave-making’ process begins with Harpagoxenus canadensis scouting the area around its nest for colonies of its host species, Leptothorax muscorum. Once the scouting ants have discovered a host’s nest, they lead other ants to the nest using a chemical secretion which the other ants can follow (3).
Harpagoxenus canadensis will then invade the host’s nest, engaging in fights with the host species which may last for long periods of time, usually between two and three hours. Harpagoxenus canadensis workers will use their mandibles to pull the limbs and antennae off their opponents. It is currently not clear whether Harpagoxenus canadensis also use chemical secretions to cause the defending workers to attack each other (3).
Following the invasion of the nest by Harpagoxenus canadensis, a group of the host species Leptothorax muscorum will generally flee with part of the brood in order to try and preserve the colony. The Leptothorax muscorum workers remaining in the nest are killed by the invading Harpagoxenus canadensis (3).
Once the host nest has been overtaken, Harpagoxenus canadensis workers carry the captured Leptothorax muscorum brood back to their own nest, or move their colony to the raided host nest, where the pupae are raised as part of the colony and become workers tasked with foraging and caring for the Harpagoxenus canadensis brood (3).
The Harpagoxenus canadensis nest is thought to be monogynous, meaning that there is only one queen (5).