Edward O. Wilson recalls his lifetime with ants, from his first boyhood encounters in the woods of Alabama to perilous journeys into the Brazilian rainforest.
“Ants are the most warlike of all animals, with colony pitted against colony,” writes E.O. Wilson, one of the world’s most beloved scientists, “their clashes dwarf Waterloo and Gettysburg.” In Tales from the Ant World, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Wilson takes us on a myrmecological tour to such far-flung destinations as Mozambique and New Guinea, the Gulf of Mexico’s Dauphin Island and even his parent’s overgrown backyard, thrillingly relating his nine-decade-long scientific obsession with over 15,000 ant species.
Animating his scientific observations with illuminating personal stories, Wilson hones in on twenty-five ant species to explain how these genetically superior creatures talk, smell, and taste, and more significantly, how they fight to determine who is dominant. Wryly observing that “males are little more than flying sperm missiles” or that ants send their “little old ladies into battle,” Wilson eloquently relays his brushes with fire, army, and leafcutter ants, as well as more exotic species. Among them are the very rare Matabele, Africa’s fiercest warrior ants, whose female hunters can carry up to fifteen termites in their jaw (and, as Wilson reports from personal experience, have an incredibly painful stinger); Costa Rica’s Basiceros, the slowest of all ants; and New Caledonia’s Bull Ants, the most endangered of them all, which Wilson discovered in 2011 after over twenty years of presumed extinction.
Richly illustrated throughout with depictions of ant species by Kristen Orr, as well as photos from Wilsons’ expeditions throughout the world, Tales from the Ant World is a fascinating, if not occasionally hair-raising, personal account by one of our greatest scientists and a necessary volume for any lover of the natural world.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Edward O. Wilson is the author of more than thirty books, including Anthill, a novel, and The Meaning of Human Existence, a finalist for the National Book Award. The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, Wilson is a professor emeritus at Harvard University and lives with his wife, Irene, in Lexington, Massachusetts.
PRAISE FOR TALES FROM THE ANT WORLD
“Tales From the Ant World is a rapturously unapologetic hymn of praise to the roughly one quadrillion ants on the planet…”—The Boston Globe
“The world-renowned ant expert cleans out his desk, which—no surprise—contains many gems…. Pulitzer Prize–winning author and naturalist Wilson’s writing on broader scientific subjects have won him awards and no lack of controversy. Now 90, largely retired from fieldwork and scholarship but an indefatigable writer, he has assembled scraps of autobiography and anecdotes on his favorite insect…. the content and quality of the writing is consistently top-notch.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Readers seeking an accessible natural history on an often-misunderstood insect will appreciate Wilson’s modest, conversational tone in this brief look at his lifetime of appreciating nature’s small wonders.”—Elissa Cooper, Library Journal
“[Wilson] delivers an illuminating work filled with insights into his specialty subject: ants. . . . Wilson’s passion for his subject, for the scientific method, and for the natural world comes through clearly in this enjoyable survey.”—Publishers Weekly
“Edward O. Wilson is the brilliant scientist philosopher. His Tales From The Ant World reminds us he is also the consummate story teller, the Homer of the Age of Science. Each of his adventures in myrmecology, the study of ants, is an adventure in scientific observation. Each study is satisfyingly complete yet just as in the world of science, there is always more to discover. The last story, like that of any great story teller, leaves us waiting for more. May they go on forever.”—Carol Angle, Professor Emeritus, Department of Pediatrics, University of Nebraska College of Medicine
“About eight decades into his study of ants, Wilson writes approachably (and perhaps especially for younger readers, given the mess their elders have made of the natural world) about his subjects and his science, myrmecology. As ever, he writes beautifully. Of kitchen ants he says, ‘You inspire fear in them; they should not in you.’ Instead, he suggests, ‘Place a few pieces of food the size of a thumbnail on the floor or sink. House ants are especially fond of honey, sugar water, chopped nuts, and canned tuna. A scout…will soon find one of the baits and…run excitedly back to the nest. There will follow social behavior so alien to human experience that it might as well be on some other planet.‘”—Harvard Magazine
ABOUT THE BOOK
TITLE: Tales from the Ant World
AUTHOR: E.O. Wilson
PUBLICATION DATE: August 25, 2020
PAGES: 240 pages