Ant Ecology now available

Surfing around the bookstores this morning I see that the much-anticipated Ant Ecology book is out. At $129.00 it’s not something the casual reader is liable to pick up. Nonetheless, Ant Ecology is a beautiful volume reviewing the state of the field, and scientists who work on ants should probably own a copy. Or at least get one on time-share.

The book is a collection of 16 chapters edited by Lori Lach, Kate Parr, and Kirsti Abbott. There’s a mellifluous forward by Ed Wilson, but then, most ant books have a mellifluous forward by Ed Wilson. Ant Ecology‘s real strength is that each chapter is written by researchers actively working on their chosen topics. Thus, the full volume is a collaboration across the leading edge of myrmecology, and the perspectives they offer are a glimpse into the burning scientific questions of the day from the mouths of the very people working hard at answering them. Among others, Brian Fisher covers ant biogeography, Christian Peeters does ant life history, and Anna Dornhaus & Scott Powell write about ant foraging strategies. As a teaser, Amazon previews part of Phil Ward’s chapter on systematics here.

I’m still only a couple chapters in, so that’s all the detail you get for now.

disclaimer: You probably shouldn’t trust me for an unbiased review. I provided most of the book’s images, and many of the authors are friends of mine. Plus the editors- bless them- sent along some simply lovely ant attire as thanks for the images (I’ll post photos shortly…)


  1. #1 zaradzki
    January 17, 2010

    I am sure ants have a lot to teach us in that field;


  2. #2 Bob O'H
    January 17, 2010

    I provided most of the book’s images,

    Yeah, that’s no surprise.

  3. #3 Scott
    January 17, 2010

    I think that foraging chapter had an additional author, plus an additional topic. I’m not sure though 🙂

  4. #4 myrmecos
    January 17, 2010

    Couldn’t have been anyone important.

  5. #5 Rob Higgins
    January 17, 2010

    I see that the Canadian price is $161.45 ( no real surprise there) but that the Kindle version is the same price from both the US and Canada (115.84). I guess that is because all of the e-books are still coming from the US.

    This might be the first academic book I’ll consider buying on the Kindle. It will be nice to be able to use a search function to locate specific references or make electronic notes.

  6. #6 Mom from down under
    January 17, 2010

    Pardon my ignorance Alex, but what do you mean by ant attire.

  7. #7 Scott
    January 17, 2010

    Well, that’s a fine way to talk about your former guest blogger! Is it just spite, because I was partly responsible for blocking your 100% monopoly on photos in the book?

  8. #8 Joshua King
    January 17, 2010

    Meh. I don’t see this book pushing the field in any significant way – as one would hope such a thing will do – especially for that price. Mostly a rehash of the various authors’ ongoing research. I think my biggest beef is that, as usual, the colony level of organization is the red-headed step child of ecological research on ants (although it does get mentioned here and there). Just my humble opinion. I don’t know much about ants or ant ecology though, so take my opinion for what it is worth.

  9. #9 myrmecos
    January 17, 2010

    I’m just kidding, Scott! I had noticed some of your shots in there. How’s Tucson?

  10. #10 Scott
    January 17, 2010

    Me too (kidding that is)! Tucson is great. Short sleeves in January, so how bad can it be? Hope all is good in Urbana-Champaign.

  11. #11 Kate
    January 18, 2010

    Can’t wait to see the pictures of the ant attire 🙂

    Re. the high price – we anticipate there will be a paper back version of the book. This should be significantly cheaper.

    Happy reading!

  12. #12 Kirsti
    January 18, 2010

    Thanks Alex. Looking forward to pics of ant attire too. 🙂

    Josh – you’ll be pleased to know that there were plenty of inspiring discussions with authors about the fact that writing their chapter made them think either more broadly, more critically, in more detail, or all of the above, about their assigned dossier. So I’m hoping the field might get a shove rather than a nudge.

  13. #13 Joshua King
    January 18, 2010


    Well, let’s hope. Ant ecology could use a good shove, or maybe kick in the ass is a better way to put it. Don’t get me wrong, the book is nice and summarizes various subject matter quite effectively. But, one always hopes for inspiration from such collective works, and here, for me, it came up short.

  14. #15 npvbroek
    January 19, 2010


    I am an avid reader of your blog and was wondering if you could recommend a book that would help me to key out ants of N.A. to species or genus. I am a graduate student at Southeastern Louisiana University and am working on my masters thesis. I am examining community composition of herpetofauna and insects in bottomland hardwood forests (Atchafalaya River Basin). I would appreciate your expertize in the matter.


  15. #16 James C. Trager
    January 20, 2010

    Since Alex is hard at work on something important, while I’m just sitting here at the computer goofing off, I’ll respond.

    This would be the book for ID of any North American ant to genus level:

    Species ID resources are more diffuse, but the keys at the ants of Mississippi site should help in your area a lot. Indeed, you could do all the ID work there:

  16. #17 npvbroek
    January 20, 2010

    Thanks for the response. The resources will be greatly appreciated!!!

  17. #18 Marc "Teleutotje" Van der Stappen
    January 26, 2010

    Got Ant Ecology today. Hope it is as good as I think it will be. First impression is OK!

  18. #19 Dave
    January 27, 2010

    Very disappointing book Alex. First off it cost $165 in Canada and then ‘mites’ appears in the index exactly once – in reference to that single word in one column of one measly table. Then a student grabbed it and ran off and that is the last I will see of it until after his prelims. Oh well, didn’t look like it had a lot of ant natural history anyway.

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