Top Books: Adventures Among Ants

Summertime reading is about escaping from the real world and this book – with its 67,000,000,000,000,000 residents really takes you away.


In Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions , Mark Moffett the so-called "Indiana Jones of Entomology" takes us around the world visiting some of the most exotic and dangerous locations - Amazon, Nigeria, Botswana, Madagascar, Borneo, India, and Australia in the search and study of ants.

He even ventures into the mysterious world - our own backyards – to seek out how these creatures live and work.

Moffett fell in love with ants when he was a child and has been studying them ever since. His articles and photographs are seen in National Geographic, and he is Research Associate in Entomology at the Smithsonian Institution. Moffett, who got his PhD under E. O. Wilson (the granddaddy of ant scientists), does a brilliant job in making us laymen care about these creatures who are surprisingly human in their behavior.

"One day as I wandered alone in the rainforest, lizards squirming in the sack hooked over my belt, I heard a barely audible sound that was subtly different from that made by any creature I had met so far." -Adventures Among Ants, Mark Moffett

The book is an adventure book full of glorious color photographs that shrink us down to ant-size so we can see the ants in their roles as leaders, warriors, hunters even slave owners.

Throughout the book when talking about an ant, he refers to them as ‘she’, because — as readers will find out — ants are a sisterhood.

Males are kicked out of society pretty much after they’re born so really they only have two functions: to have sex and to die.

The stories are fascinating and educating — and yes, he delivers on some gore as well — like how an army of driver ants devoured an antelope in equatorial Africa.

C’mon — if you’re going to read about ants, you know you want some of the gross stuff, too. It’s what we loved hearing about when we were kids. I still get the willies remembering the movie, "The Naked Jungle" with Charlton Heston battling gazillions of ants that had invaded his South American farm. Seriously—if watching Heston plow thru all those ants doesn’t give you the heeby jeebies, nothing will.

But back to reality.

In Moffett’s bookwe learn so much about them (and us), like how ants live and die for the group. No single ant can defect from the colony, so they learn to rely on the next ant over. They communicate through a chemical scent. The ant farthest away from harm may not have any idea that the colony is in danger — but when the communication does reach her — she acts. As Moffett explains, it’s this mass reaction that makes ants so smart.

Imagine that kind of DNA in the workplace.

Moffett also explains how ants create marketplaces and assembly lines and how they deal with issues uniquely human like hygiene, recycling, warfare and leadership.

It’s a good read into a world we barely know even though we’ve been exposed to ants all our lives.

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