Today I saw an ant question biology and was reminded of a picture I had clicked 2 years ago.

Here, you can see these black guys cannibalizing this other black guy.

To reiterate, these guys had their nest inside a tree. I had cornered one of them.

If I remember correctly the ant was walking fine and the only fault might have been that I lead the guy astray a bit (not further than the farthest guy in the colony) and near the colony I turned it on its back which lead to a lot of difficulty for getting up again (as any ant knows). I mean I waited maybe a few minutes but it just kept waving it's legs in the air.

So later on as soon as these other ants got sight of their lost friend when it was able to hobble back near the nest, they came over and just pulled him apart.

In the picture you can see the first guy just got to him and the others started aggregating as soon as this guy came over. Within five minutes some 10 or 15 ants were all over the place.

Which ant species is this?

Why did they murder/cannibalize a member of their own colony?

Is this a common behaviour among ants?

enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting observation! From what I understand it can be very difficult to get the species from a photo like this (but I'm no expert, someone else might know better). Also, you're using "guy" and "him" in your text, but most likely these are female ants since all workers are female. $\endgroup$
    – picapica
    Aug 19, 2016 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ I did not mean male or female. I'll change everything to it. Tried to keep the post jovial $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2016 at 13:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I understood what you meant, I'm just being pedantic and ruining all the jovialness... $\endgroup$
    – picapica
    Aug 19, 2016 at 13:45
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    $\begingroup$ Potentially a nice question but you might run into problems as you're asking more than one thing - as you can see below, you already have an answer to the species-id part which is probably correct as far as it goes but it would be a shame to ignore the interesting behavioural parts. Since this has been answered now, you could consider editing this into a species-id question and paste the rest into a new behavioural question? Maybe? (I don't know, I'm fairly new to this). $\endgroup$
    – arboviral
    Aug 19, 2016 at 16:04
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    $\begingroup$ India! new delhi! $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2016 at 18:12

1 Answer 1


Scientific name: Camponotus compressus

Common name: Common Indian black ant


Camponotus compressus tending soft scale insects growing on a stem

enter image description here


  1. Common Indian black ant
  2. Wikipedia

Cannibalism is common in social insects. It is a way through which they control the population of the colony and conserve nutrients. Members of Hymenotpera (this ant being one) are very quick to consume injured eggs, larvae and pupae. It has been experimentally observed that when a colony of Zootermopsis angusticollis(a species of termite) was kept on a diet full of cellulose i.e. deprived of protein, they attacked their own kind. But cannibalism dropped to zero when casein was introduced in their diet. So it is safe to assume that these ants too engage in cannibalism for the same reason, proteins.

Reference: This book.

  • $\begingroup$ you say tending soft scale insects..Is there some sort of symbiotic relationship between these insects? $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2016 at 14:18

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