Whether he’s writing about island biogeography, sociobiology, human nature or biodiversity, naturalist Edward O. Wilson tells a cracking good story. He’s a raconteur who compels us to stop for a moment and listen in rapt wonder to his captivating tales of forays into forests, where he uncovers rotted logs or overturns mounds in search of the great variety of species in the ant world. With characteristic passion and humor, Wilson regales us with Tales From the Ant World, combining memoir and scientific discovery into a spellbinding narrative of his lifelong devotion to myrmecology, the study of ants.
Most of us are familiar with the ants that track across our kitchen counters on warm spring days, but few of us take the time to consider those creatures’ lives. Wilson unveils the ant fauna, revealing the astonishing number of ants in the world (more than 15,000 species, and some have estimated that the number is closer to 25,000 or 30,000), their social quirks (pouring out of their “hidden bivouac,” uncoiling like a rope and moving “hard and fast” from “one stronghold to the next”) and their ways of communicating (of all the social insects that communicate by pheromones, ants are the virtuosos of chemical communication).
Wilson’s absorbing and delightful book shows how extraordinary (and populous!) this common creature really is. As he puts it, “If Homo sapiens had not arisen as an accidental primate species on the grasslands of Africa, and spread worldwide, visitors from other star systems, when they come (and mark my word, they will eventually come), should be inclined to call Earth ‘planet of the ants.’ ” In his enchanting Tales From the Ant World, Wilson encourages readers to feed those ants in your kitchen and observe them. In doing so, you’ll discover a great deal about the social world of insects and, perhaps, about yourselves.