Ant Books

Today we're featuring a new resource for ant enthusiasts, Ants of Florida: Identification and Natural History by Dr. Mark Deyrup. It was published in November 2016.

Why Florida?

With 239 known species of ants, Deyrup makes a good case that Florida is a leader in ant diversity, if not "the 'antiest' state." At Archbold Biological Station alone -- where he works -- researchers have found 128 species. (Of course, it has also been studied more intensively than many other areas).

What's Inside The Book?

Have you ever been frustrated when an identification guide gives no information about what a given species does or disappointed when authors of natural history books assume the reader can already recognize all the species they discuss? Ants of Florida shows how to combine the two successfully.

Starting with a 12-page Overview of the Ants of Florida, the bulk of the book comprises of Species Accounts of every one of the species of ants currently found in Florida. Each account contains:

  • The scientific name of ant
  • Common name of ant
  • Taxonomy information
  • Distribution
  • A Natural History summary
  • Name Derivation

You may wonder why the author included name derivations for every species, but it's always enlightening to learn about them. They reveal information both about the history of the species, and about the people who discovered and named them. I have to ask: does it seem like all entomologists also interested in etymology?

Every ant gets equal treatment, but Dr. Deyrup admits he is partial to ants in the genus Strumigenys.

(Photograph of Strumigenys rogeri from www.Antweb.org under license Creative Commons License)

Back matter includes a Checklist of Florida Ants, Literature Cited, Plates, Distribution Maps, and an incredibly comprehensive Index. With a small font and dense text in over 400 pages, there is a lot packed into this book.

The 90 plates of illustrations are particularly well done with an emphasis on key characteristics used to distinguish similar species. The first two plates show morphological terms applicable to all ants.

Is This Book For You?

Although pricier than a standard hardback novel, in terms of density and value of information this book is a huge bargain.

You will obviously want a copy is you live in Florida or anywhere in the southeastern United States, for that matter. You will probably also want a copy if you ever intend to visit Florida or the southeastern United States. Let's face it, after you see this book, you will want to visit Florida.

What about for the rest of us? Does the book have a broader appeal?  Consider:

  1. A number of the species covered have widespread distributions, such as the Patagonian rover ant, Brachymyrmex patagonicus, the carpenter ant Camponotus pennsylvanicus or the crazy ant, Paretrechina longicornis.
  2. Even for those ants found only in Florida, it may be useful to compare them to similar species found in your region.
  3. By reading it, you can learn a lot about ants in general. For example, Dr. Deyrup points out on page 205 that some genera of ants aren't commonly found in warm humid climates, such as Lasius, Formica, and Myrmica.
  4. It gives a glimpse into the lives of people who collected and named ants in Florida, as well as the scientists who research them.

The bottom line is that Ants of Florida: Identification and Natural History is a comprehensive, well-organized, and informative resource. If you're wild about ants like we are, you'll want to pick up a copy.

Hardcover: 437 pages
Publisher: CRC Press (November 9, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1498754678
ISBN-13: 978-1498754675

The Author:

Biodiversity with Dr. Mark Deyrup: Archbold Biological Station, Part One from Archbold Biological Station on Vimeo.

Disclosures: This book was provided by the publisher or review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

So, what kind of presents do you get for someone who is Wild About Ants?

workers-ahead-sign_0251How about a "Caution Workers Ahead" sign for their office?

Everyone likes a t-shirt.

eusocial-t-0257Even better, why not one that says "Eusocial" on the front...

anti-social-t-0266and "Anti-Social" on the back.

These gifts were from Wild Cotton by Atlas Screen Printing, 131 S.E. 10th Ave., Gainesville, FL  32601.  Full disclosure:  my husband is a friend of the owner.

For the bookshelf, try Ants of Florida: Identification and Natural History* by Mark Deyrup.

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

It's a bit pricey, but a useful resource.

Florida seems to be the place for ant-themed stuff this year.

Have you received any ant-themed gifts this year?

Today let's take a look at Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle by Douglas J. Emlen and illustrated by David J. Tuss

As I clicked on the category "ant books" for this post I realized that is a bit of a stretch. Ants are mentioned on a few pages, but the author doesn't talk about much more than worker ants with big jaws. He actually does most of his research on beetles. That said, he does cover the weapons of the entire animal kingdom. His editors even convinced him to tackle human weapons, although he admits being reluctant to do so.

You can see what the author has to say about his book in this video from American Scientist.

 

Emlen's writing is clear and engaging. He has been able to make some conclusions based on patterns he has seen in the natural world. His observations about cheaters in the world of battle are particularly chilling.

 Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle has elements that are likely to appeal to both those interested in natural history and those interested in weaponry and battle. Definitely recommended.

If you have time, you might want to watch the SciShow Talk Show: Animal Weapons with Doug Emlen & A Southern Three-Banded Armadillo,

plus SciShow Talk Show: More about Animal Weapons with Doug Emlen & Professor Claw the Emperor Scorpion.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (December 1, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1250075319
ISBN-13: 978-1250075314

Disclosures: This book is my personal copy. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

2 Comments

Guess what came in the mail this week - my copy of A Field Guide to the Ants of New England by Aaron M. Ellison, Nicholas J. Gotelli Ph.D., Elizabeth J. Farnsworth, and Gary D. Alpert Ph.D.

Pardon while I gush about this book. If you are interested in ants, this book is a must have, pretty much no matter where you reside. People from outside of New England are likely to find at least a few ants in the book that also occur in their area. In the endpapers are drawings of the ant body parts that are univerally used to identify ants. The book also covers general information about collecting and has a chapter on " Ant Basics:  Evolution, Ecology and Behavior."

In addition to drawings and photographs of the ants themselves, the authors have included maps and photographs of the habitat where the ants are found. These are also helpful for narrowing down possibilities for identification.

I was pleased to see that the authors have come up with common names for every species of ant they list. Let's face it, although common names can add confusion when there are multiple animals called the same common name, or when an organism has a dozen common names, it is much easier to converse with the interested layperson or children if you have a common name to use. Most of the common names in the guide are based on the scientific name. That said, a couple of the names are a bit of a stretch. "The Somewhat Hairy Fuzzy Ant" does not just roll off the tongue.

Speaking of names, I learned a new word looking through the extensive bibliography - "fewmet." I will be looking up the reference, but will continue to use the entomologist's standby, "frass," instead.

A Field Guide to the Ants of New England is dedicated "To everyone who wants to learn more about the ants who share our planet." I think the authors have met their goal.

Have you gotten your copy yet? What do you think?

NEAnts website

(Affiliate link)