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Journey to the Ants: A Story of Scientific Exploration

4.59  ·  Rating details ·  831 ratings  ·  68 reviews
Hailed as "a masterpiece" by Scientific American and as "the greatest of all entomology books" by Science, Bert Holldobler and Edward O. Wilson's monumental treatise The Ants also was praised in the popular press and won a Pulitzer Prize. This overwhelming success attests to a fact long known and deeply felt by the authors: the infinite fascination of their tiny subjects. ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published July 21st 1998 by Belknap Press (first published August 5th 1994)
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Petra eXpects nothing & so won't be disappointed
Nov 28, 2020 marked it as 1-awaiting-review-but-read
Update Farming, crops, in detail. This is unbelievably fascinating. Every time there is description and explanation for ant behaviour, there is another question raised, almost always the same one, 'how does she know?'.

This is how leafcutter ants farm their 'mushrooms' crop. The foragers drop their leaves into a chamber where slightly smaller ants shred them for even smaller ants to crush and mould into moist pellets which they then carefully insert into a pile of similar material. This fluffy m
Roy Lotz
Sep 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature-writing
If ants had nuclear weapons, they would probably end the world in a week.

One of the best classes I ever took was taught by an entomologist. You couldn’t walk more than a few feet with him without coming across something fascinating. Every square inch of soil, every rock and branch, every type of environment—however seemingly barren—be it desert or riverine, was shown to be packed with little animated beings, scurrying about. The life of an entomologist is enviably interesting.

Of the innume
May 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Journey to the Ants is THE indispensable and, as far as I know unparalleled book for myrmecophiles. Wilson's and Holldobler's prose is exceedingly clear, untechnical, and personal. Their passion for the realities of ant biology and ethology (as complemented by the isolated scientific knowledge thereof) makes every page alive. There is a LOT of really really cool stuff in this book.

Reading about the complexity and interesting permutations of ant behavior made me realize how little human justifica
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
You'll learn a lot from this extremely interesting book. But first - couple of quotes.

- It can be said that while human societies send their young men to war, weaver-ant societies send their old ladies.

- If ants had nuclear weapons, they would probably end the world in a week.

In this book however you'll not only learn about the art of ant war, like:
* Home turf matters - majority of battles are won on fields where future victors' droppings prevail.
* They seal defenders in their nests, spraying th
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Do you want to learn about ants? Of course you do.

I picked this up after enjoying Dave Goulson's A Sting in the Tale which was all about bumblebees.

Super, super, super interesting and fascinating stuff. I won't re-type all the fun facts I learned. Colony insects are so amazing.

If anyone in Saskatoon wants to borrow this, shoot me a note. It wasn't available from the library so I picked up a copy.
Andrej Karpathy
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Journey to the Ants paints a very interesting picture of an ant colony as an intricate super-organism in which individual ants are only small, dispensable, fairly mechanical and easily replaceable walking batteries of exocrine glands that sense their world primarily through array of chemical words, touch, sound, and very poor vision in some cases. The fascinating image I take away from this book is that the colony is the individual, and every ant is like a protein flowing through the veins of th ...more
Fraser Kinnear
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology, science
So freaking cool.

Dozens of different ant species are profiled to highlight hundreds of cool facts, along with detailed pictures for context.

Some examples:

The Odontomachus bauri's jaw mandible is the fastest of any anatomical structure in the animal kingdom, moving at 8.5 meters per second (if human sized, that would be the same as a fist swinging at 3 km/s, which is faster than a rifle bullet). These mandibles are triggered by the largest nerve axons in the animal kingdom (larger size allows f
Keenan Johnston
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm now full of facts for the rest of my life about ants. I had no idea how old the ant species is, and how social their world is. Worth the read but a few of my favorite learnings:

There are basically no male ants in a colony - they serve no purpose other than reproduction and die shortly after

Each colony is spawned from the same queen mother, so essentially the colony is full of daughters

Ants wage wars on other colonies, and are extremely territorial

One ant species has the fastest twitch muscle
Nick Argiriou
Dec 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction-tech
Great book, if you're looking to learn about this subject. Authors are experts in this field and well educated, they make connections with other "social animals" and most chapters are highly interesting, i found the chapters "the army ants", and the "strange ants" great. ...more
Domagoj Bodlaj
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
One of mine most interesting reads lately. The microcosm of ants is the showcase of the most clever of nature's mechanisms which even the wildest of imaginations would have hard time making up ...more
Dec 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bug-stuff
Hell yeah!! Journey to the motherfuckin ANTS!!
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Photos, very informative, understandable for non-specialists and well researched.
May 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
All hail the glorious ants as now I think we're alive just because they don't yet need to conquer the Earth (and humankind). ...more
Feb 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biology-brain
I was reading this article on superorganism on the internet the other day and saw Bert Holldobler and found out he wrote a 1000-page Pulitzer-winning tome on ants. That’s pretty impressive and gives me enough excuse to read this random book. Also my time in Australia made me fascinated by these tiny, apparently mindless creatures running about and organizing extremely efficient societies and evolutionary machines. And this is definitely a wonderful and exciting book that anyone remotely interest ...more
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, non-fiction, 2017
I have always been a bit of a junior entomologist, so when my boy got an ant farm for his birthday, I just had to find out more about ants. This book was just what I needed. Geared to the general public, this book had just the right level of detail to be highly interesting but not overwhelming. It was comprehensive and scientific while still being very readable. While I won't amaze (or bore) you with the details here, anyone who has been around me recently can tell you that I have learned so man ...more
Dennis Littrell
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Truly a fascinating adventure to another world

Journey to the Ants is a shorter version of the authors' monumental The Ants (1990), a 732-page tome aimed at professional biologists with a lot of technical language and a clear encyclopedic intent. This book, as Holldobler and Wilson explain in the Preface, is of "a more manageable length, with less technical language and with an admitted and unavoidable bias toward those topics and species on which we have personally worked."

It is a terrific book,
Sophy H
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: outdoor-nature
I bloody loved this!!! Ants are just the best!

Hard-working, courageous, daring, feisty, nurturing, team players.

The two authors are life long students of ants and ant activity and their enthusiasm and passion for the subject shine through on each page. I read in true awe and fascination about these tiny creatures that knock the spots off us humans in terms of longevity and success in surviving.

Highly recommended if you've ever looked down at the ground outside and thought "where is that ant g
Apr 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, favorites
Ants are really, really strange--but strangely familiar. For instance, the decomposing body of a dead ant emits a chemical that prompts other ants to carry the body to the colony garbage heap. If you put that chemical on a living ant, other ants treat it like a corpse, and drag it to the garbage heap over and over again. I can relate to that. The NY Giants have been dragging me to the garbage heap for about twenty five years.
Reza Wahadj
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reza-shelf
Beyond imagination, stunning the degree of social complexity achieved by such small brains.
Definitely made me consider altruism and conflict in terms of genetics and social survival.
However, the real catch is the author's passion about their subject.
I would recommend that everyone read at least part of this book
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ants are awesome.
Alan Parker
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great natural history book. Distilled from their monumental textbook.
Mark Reece
Oct 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Journey to the Ants is a short book that has the feel of a long book. It is packed with the findings of the lifetime of research by the Myremecologists Holldobler and Wilson, ranging across all aspects of ants' life cycle, from how ants communicate, to how members of a colony interact with each other, other colonies, and other species. There are sections on the evolution of ant species, and even advice about how to capture and study ants.

With such extensive ground to be covered, there is a dange
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
[In my ratings 2 means quite OK and 3 means good.]

A story might help you decide whether this book is for you. Two decades ago my brother spent weeks in the hospital recovering from an accident. Together we chose this book for me to read to him. Particularly when he needed distraction from pain or stress we'd spend half an hour absorbed in an exotic miniature world. I was reading one morning right before one of my brother's several surgeries when the anesthesiologist came in. He paused while I fi
May 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Very interesting book about ants. It’s amazing to read about how the social structure is sustained in ants, why it is a great way to make sure genes get passed on. Ants can be 10% to 30% of all mass weight of animals. Work ants are born to protect and serve the queens, they don’t have interest to have their own genes passed, but to make sure their queens’ gene get passed. Such an interesting setup makes ants one of the most powerful animals on the planet. The book also introduces how ants form s ...more
Sep 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
All about ants. Behaviours, armies, colonies, reproductions, weirdness, communication, evolution, what have you.

Supposed to be a more accessible version of their magnum opus The Ants. And it is very accessible and fun to read.
mark propp
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
i'd prefer to rate this 4.5 rather than 5, but this site doesn't seem to want to give us that option.

the only reason this isn't perfect is that the writing is just a touch dry here and there.

but ants are the most fascinating creatures, and this book generally does them justice.
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.8 An excellent introduction to the wildly diverse world of this fascinating social insect 🐜
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best
just awesome
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Great book! I learned so much about ants. Now I find them even more amazing.
Bart Van
Feb 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
A scientific journey by myrmecologist accessible for non scientists... really enjoy reading this book!
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Bert Hölldobler is Foundation Professor at Arizona State University and the recipient of numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize. He lives in Arizona and Germany.

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