Table 1: Terminology for food theft, brood theft, brood parasitism, and related phenomena. The term “cleptoparasite” has been used with such diverse meanings that it is probably best dropped from the lexicon for this area.


CleptobiosisTheft of food or another item of value from another animalGulls [5], honeybees [6], Ectatomma ants [7, 8], bowerbirds (mating display materials) [9]

LestobiosisCleptobiosis by furtive or deceptive meansEctatomma ants [7, 8]

Nest usurpationTheft of a nest structure, perhaps including brood or food cached within the nestHoneybees [6], thrips [10]

Brood parasitismLaying eggs in the nest of another animal, to be reared by that animal, functionally, this is theft of brood rearingCuckoos (birds) [3], cuckoo bees [2]

DulosisTheft of brood to rear as workers“Slave-making” ants [11]

InquilinismLiving within a social group as a social parasite, a conspecific or heterospecific reproductive that exploits the host colony by laying brood that are cared for by the host colonyPsithyrus bees in bumblebee (Bombus) colonies, Dolichovespula arctica and D. adulterina, (initially inquilines, often become usurpers) in other Dolichovespula colonies [12, 13], numerous ant species within other ant colonies [11]

Guests, myrmecophiles, and termitophilesLive within a social insect colony, often adopting chemical recognition signature of host colony, may consume resources but do not represent a lethal drain on colony resourcesMany species representing many insect orders, as well as noninsects. Specific examples are lycaenid Lepidoptera in ant colonies [14, 15] and wax moths, Galleria mellonella, in honeybee colonies [6]

ParasitesLive within a social insect colony but represent a potentially lethal presenceVarroa mites in honeybee colonies [6]

Brood predationEating eggs or brood from within a nestCorvids (ravens, crows, magpies) consuming other bird’s eggs, army ants, many species of which target brood of other social insects [1]