Six new species of a mysterious blood-sucking ant have been identified in Madagascar. Belonging to the Amblyoponinae sub-family of ants, they have earned the nickname ‘Dracula ants’, thanks to a social feeding system that involves them feeding off the blood or haemolymph of their young. Known as ‘non-destructive parental cannibalism’ because the young don’t end up dead, this behaviour sees scores of worker ants gorging themselves on the vital fluids of the colony’s young before regurgitating it up and feeding it to the sedentary and wingless queens. The larval victims of the Dracula ants show signs of puncture wounds and scarring across their bodies.
Three of the new species’ names — Mystrium labyrinth, Mystrium mirror and Mystrium shadow — were assigned to “evoke the air of mystery around this genus”.