Army Ants: Nature’s Ultimate Social Hunters Book

Looking for a last minute gift for an ant aficionado or nature enthusiast?  Army Ants: Nature’s Ultimate Social Hunters* by Daniel J. C. Kronauer is the perfect choice.

(*Amazon Affiliate Link)

Written to be accessible for the general audience, the book features Kronauer’s eye-catching, gorgeous full-color photographs. In fact the illustrations might make you think it could  be a coffee table book, but don’t be fooled. Army Ants is full of serious, sometimes cutting-edge science, too.

What’s in the book

In the prologue, the reader learns about how popular culture has viewed army ants, as well as a quick introduction to the rest of the book. Kronauer explains he will focus on two species, Eciton hamatum  and Eciton burchelli.

Chapter One starts with the recognition of Eciton army ants by early European naturalists and the problems they had naming the species. It is a fascinating bit of scientific history and took some effort to untangle. Eventually, the taxonomy is sorted and science progresses.

In Chapter Two, readers discover how different groups of army ants fit in with other ants in the evolutionary tree, how they are different from one another and how they are similar.

The next chapters cover specialized army ant biology:  mass raiding, nomadic lifestyle, and reproducing via colony fission.

Chapter Three discusses how army ants forage for prey during raids. For example, Eciton hamatum specializes in preying on ants and social wasps, whereas Eciton bruchelli raids ants as well as many other arthropods.  Do Eciton army ants raid the other abundant ants in the area, leafcutters? You will find out. He also mentions butterflies, flies, and birds that follow the raiding columns ( previous post describes antbirds).

Chapter Four delves deeply into the colony life cycles of the different species.  Army ants cycle between a nomadic phase when they move from place to place, and a statary or settled phase when the ants stay in one place for a few weeks. When they are statary, the ants form a living nest with their own bodies called a bivouac. All those ants working together to produce a physical structure that can even regulate the temperature and humidity inside is pretty amazing.

Chapter Five reveals how army ant colonies reproduce via fission, where colonies split up workers into two (or more) groups, one following the established queen and the other with a new, young queen. It is reminiscent of the swarming process in honey bees.

The final chapter, aptly named “The Traveling Circus”, focuses on all the other arthropods that live with, on, and travel with army ants. Mites and beetles are particularly common myrmecophiles. Some of their adaptations to life with army ants are mind blowing. On page 266 check out the mite that attaches to and takes the function of the tarsi of an army ant.

In the back matter is a full glossary, tons of references, and an index.

Discussion

Army Ants is both an entertaining read and a good general reference to this specialized group of ants. Kronauer’s enthusiasm for his subject and expertise shine through on every page. Even someone who knows quite a bit about ants will probably find things that are new.

One unexpected aspect of reading the book the ability to armchair travel to tropical locations at a time when travel currently not an easy option. Although Kronauer doesn’t write about his adventures in great detail, on page 222 he mentions receiving the news that a colony of army ants was getting ready to fission and immediately booking a flight to Costa Rica to observe it. That’s a lifestyle most of us only dream about. By reading the book, we get to travel along with him.

If you are interested in ants or know someone who is, grab a copy of Army Ants today!

Publisher : Harvard University Press (October 6, 2020)
ISBN-10 : 067424155X
ISBN-13 : 978-0674241558

(Featured post image is a public domain photograph of Eciton burchelli by Alex Wild)

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for 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 no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

#kidlit How to Walk an Ant

I’ve had this children’s picture book on my shelf for nearly a year and decided it was finally time to review it. Perhaps it took me that long to figure out what to say. Yes, it is that different.

How To Walk An Ant by Cindy Derby is quirky fiction that features our favorite creatures: ants.

My name is Amariyah,
and I am an Expert Walker.
No, I don’t mean I walk perfect,
I mean I walk things.

If that quote makes you laugh — or at least grin — then continue on. If not, then this book probably isn’t for you.

The main part of the book is a “nine-step guide” to walking an ant. After explaining how to find the ant and gain its trust, she says you must attach the leash.

Tie the smallest  bow in the universe then secure the leash between the ant’s thorax and head.

Things go downhill, or possibly uphill, from there. In fact, the humor can be dark at times and Appendix 1 explains how to carry out an ant funeral. Appendix 2 gives young readers some actual ant facts (although the ant anatomy part will probably make you wince).

Cindy Derby is an artist and her illustrations are wildly creative. You can take a peek inside the book at the publisher’s website.

Overall, How To Walk An Ant is likely to  appeal to budding myrmecologists and artists alike. It will certainly give you a lot to smile about, think about, and discuss after reading. Investigate a copy today!

Related:

 

Grade Level : Preschool – 3
ISBN-10 : 1250162629
ISBN-13 : 978-1250162625
Publisher : Roaring Brook Press (March 26, 2019)

 

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

#Kidlit New Picture Book about Ants

We all know kids can be wild about ants, too. If that’s the case, they might be interested in a new picture book I found at the library yesterday, Just Like Us! Ants by Bridget Heos and illustrated by David Clark.

 

The book is set up as a series of two-page spreads on different topics such as “Sister Cities” and “Bug Eat Bug Job.” You might not be able to see from the image of the cover above, but each spread features a photograph or two of real ants (photographs by Alex Wild) surrounded by cartoons.

Although the cartoon illustrations may make it look like this isn’t a serious book, don’t be fooled. Serious facts and concepts are discussed, but in a lighthearted way that will attract the most reluctant of readers. Throughout the author compares what ants can do to what humans do, making them more relatable.

What I like is it is not simply a rehash of older books. The author reveals recent scientific discoveries, such as how bigheaded ant larvae process food for the colony or how fire ants build rafts to float on water. That’s nice to see.

If you know a lot about ants, you might quibble about the wording here and there. For example, “all ants in the colony come from one mother” might make you pause if you know about polygyny. However, by and large it is a case of keeping things simple enough for children to grasp readily and it works overall.

Just Like Us! Ants gives an up close and personal look at how ants do things that are remarkably similar to the way humans do, and it is an accurate and informative introduction to the world of ants that is perfect for young readers. Check out a copy today.

Looking for more children’s books about ants? See our growing list (organized by reading level and genre) at Science Books for Kids.

Age Range: 4 – 7 years
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (October 3, 2017)
ISBN-10: 054457043X
ISBN-13: 978-0544570436

Book Review: Ants of Florida

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.