Most people seem to think of ants only as pests, to be exterminated by whatever means possible. They undermine the root systems of our flowers and vegetables, farm aphids on our tomatoes, raid our kitchens and picnics and generally make a blooming nuisance of themselves. So it's refreshing to hear from a couple of their biggest fans. Wilson and Hölldobler present a whole different view of ants: ancient (they've been here for a 100 million years or more), fantastically well adapted to their various environments, ecologically indispensable, incredibly diverse (about 9,500 recorded species and probably that number again still undiscovered) and unbelievably interesting. There are army ants and honeypot ants, ants that take prisoners to use as slaves, ants that live as parasites on other ants, ants that cover themselves in muck to achieve an effective camouflage, ants with jaws like dangerous farm implements, ants that farm crops and ants that herd stock. They live underground, in mounds, in trees, in logs, in my pantry - you name it. There are all sorts of different domestic arrangements in different ant species - some have multiple queens for example (and occasional civil wars) but, in general, the queen is the head and the heart of the colony. Without the queen the colony is dead - even if the poor little workers are still moving around. That's why an ant colony is regarded as a superorganism. No ant is an island. When did you ever see just one at your picnic?
This book is as easy to read as any novel and more interesting than most. The authors' delight and enthusiasm shines through and infects the reader. I challenge anyone to read this book and not end up feeling some degree of respect, even affection, for the little critters.