Empire of Ants by Susanne Foitzik & Olaf Fritsche

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Empire of Ants by Susanne Foitzik, Olaf Fritsche and published by Gaia, an imprint of Octopus Books

About the Book

Beneath our feet, a fascinating drama unfolds: Ants are waging war and staging rebellions, growing fungi as crops and raising aphids as livestock, making vaccines and, generally, living lives that — up-close —look surprisingly human.

Evolutionary biologist Susanne Foitzik and biophysicist Olaf Fritsche reveal all in, Empire of Ants, inviting readers to live alongside the workers, soldiers, and conquerors of the insect world—and the researchers who study them. (How do we observe the behaviour of ants just a few millimetres in size—or monitor activity in a brain as small as the tip of a needle?)

Ants’ global dominance (there are 10 quadrillion ants worldwide) and supreme staying power (they have existed since the dinosaurs) give a sense of scale to our own empire-building and destroying. Empire of Ants may leave its human readers asking: Who really runs the world?


About the Authors

Susanne Foitzik is an evolutionary biologist, behavioural scientist and international authority on ants. After completing her PhD in ant evolution and behaviour and conducting postdoctoral work in the US, she became a professor at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Currently, she teaches at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, where she studies the behaviours of slaveholding ants and different work roles in insect colonies. Her findings have been published in over 100 scientific papers to date. (Photo www.fotoredaktion.net)


Olaf Fritsche is a science journalist and biophysicist with a PhD in biology. He was previously an editor at the German-language edition of Scientific American, is the author and co-author of many books and has been published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines.


My Review

Just the thought of ants is enough to make some people’s skin crawl. I am not overly worried by them and whilst I am more than happy for the colony’s living alongside our house to stay there, I am less happy with them coming inside as they do occasionally. They are only there for food though and if one of them finds a suitable source of nutrition then it is not long before, what seems like the entire nest is there.

Ants have been around for millions of years and it is thought that there are 22,00 different species of which we have categorised about two-thirds of them. They are a social species and are part of the same family as wasps and bees. They can live in tiny colonies of thirty or so individuals or vast nest containing millions. Each species has evolved in a particular way even though they have some common habits, there is a whole world of particular differences between them.

Ants are a fascinating species and one that Susanne Foitzik has made a career from. She has written over 100 paper on ant behaviours but along with Olaf Fritsche in this book, they are bringing their cutting edge research to the wider readership. It is a mix of personal stories from collecting colonies and filling their host fridge with them, writing about how different species enslave other ants or other insects for food. Some caterpillars crawl into the nest as this is the safest place for them as they pupate unless they do not disguise themselves with the correct pheromones in which case they end up as lunch.

There are stories on how tidy they can be making sure that all waste is placed outside the nest and how this supports another set of creatures in turn. One species is always on the move and they create a shelter called a bivouac in some natural gap. This is made up of ants who hook themselves together to create the shelter to protect the young and old members of the nest. Even though they can’t see much they use other senses to find their way to and from the nest, experiments have show how they use these senses to navigate

I thought that this was a good overview of all things ant. Each of the chapters covers a particular topic on how ant colonies operate, from The Birth of a Colony to The Path to World Domination. It is very readable and thankfully it didn’t read like an academic paper as some popular science books can do at times. If you like insects and creepy crawlies then this would be right up your street.

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour

Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the copy of the book to read.

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  1. annecater

    Thanks for the blog tour support x

    • Paul

      You are very welcome, Anne!

  2. Jason Denness

    Nice. Adding this to my want list. 🙂

    • Paul

      Thanks. I have just offered it to someone else, otherwise, you could have had it!

  3. Liz Dexter

    That does look like a good one and great that they have the knack of making it readable rather than too academic.

    • Paul

      I have read so many tedious science books that could have been so much better

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