Tales from the Ant World

November 1, 2020
Tales from the Ant World

Edward O. Wilson recalls his lifetime with ants, fromhis first boyhood encounters in the woods of Alabama to perilousjourneys into the Brazilian rainforest."Ants are the most warlike of all animals, with colony pittedagainst colony," writes E.O. Wilson, one of the world's mostbeloved scientists, "their clashes dwarf Waterloo and Gettysburg."In Tales from the Ant World, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Wilsontakes us on a myrmecological tour to such far-flung destinations asMozambique and New Guinea, the Gulf of Mexico's Dauphin Island andeven his parent's overgrown backyard, thrillingly relating hisnine-decade-long scientific obsession with over 15,000 antspecies.Animating his scientific observations with illuminating personalstories, Wilson hones in on twenty-five ant species to explain howthese genetically superior creatures talk, smell, and taste, andmore significantly, how they fight to determine who is dominant.Wryly observing that "males are little more than flying spermmissiles" or that ants send their "little old ladies into battle,"Wilson eloquently relays his brushes with fire, army, andleafcutter ants, as well as more exotic species. Among them are thevery rare Matabele, Africa's fiercest warrior ants, whose femalehunters can carry up to fifteen termites in their jaw (and, asWilson reports from personal experience, have an incredibly painfulstinger); Costa Rica's Basiceros, the slowest of all ants; and NewCaledonia's Bull Ants, the most endangered of them all, whichWilson discovered in 2011 after over twenty years of presumedextinction.Richly illustrated throughout with depictions of ant species byKristen Orr, as well as photos from Wilsons' expeditions throughoutthe world, Tales from the Ant World is a fascinating, if notoccasionally hair-raising, personal account by one of our greatestscientists and a necessary volume for any lover of the naturalworld.