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Ants at Work: How an Insect Society is Organized
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Ants at Work: How an Insect Society is Organized

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  161 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Ants have long been regarded as the most interesting of the social insects. With their queens and celibate workers, these intriguing creatures have captured the imaginations of scientists and children alike for generations. Yet until now, no one had studied intensely the life cycle of the ant colony as a whole. An ant colony has a life cycle of about fifteen years—it is bo ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published October 17th 2000 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1999)
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3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  161 ratings  ·  26 reviews


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Arthur Sperry
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book detailing a lot of information about Ant communities and how Ants communicate using pheromones. A lot of interesting study on the organization of different kinds of Ant communities.
Jenne
May 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Ants! Ants are rad.
Linda Gaines
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Interesting book that discusses in first person the author's work. It is written such anyone can understand it. It doesn't really delve into highly scientific terms. I like how it is written first person, and she puts in a few personal comments here and there. Not many, but enough that the book is not too analytical. I also like how in the epilogue she does not try to make her work some grand work that connects it to everything else. "And I have not learned much about people from watching ants." ...more
Hom Sack
Nov 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just fascinating. Dispels what I thought I knew about ants, e.g., contrary to what Aesop (The Ant and the Grasshopper) and the Bible (Proverbs 6:6) said. Some of the ants in a colony just "standing around doing nothing".
Thien Nguyen
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ants
It's been a long time since I read this book but I recall it being a good recap of Gordon's long history of research as well as a summary of what is still to be learned. Less for the casually interested in nature and more for those who think digging in dirt for hours under the hot desert sun to count ants is an acceptable use of time.
Mangoo
Feb 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ants can become an addiction, and this book is a must-read demonstration of this apparently weird fact. Ants are rather simple agents, yet their colonies and even populations show stunning behaviors in terms of coordination, organization, task allocation, reaction to environmental events, survival strategy, co-existance with neighbors, flexibility and robustness (in one, adaptivity) that make them an outstanding case study for how complex socio-ecological behavior emerge from rather basic featur ...more
Nick
Aug 19, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

I gave this book 2 stars because it does what it's supposed to: It explains how an insect society (of ants) is organized and contains interesting information. Unfortunately, I expected more from it, but that was because I didn't really pay attention to the title so much as I did the ants on the cover.

I find ants fascinating, and Gordon does a great job at illustrating the different functions of different ants, their movement patterns, and reactions to various stimuli and species, which was great
...more
Upom
Really interesting book with a ton of information about ants. The scientist who wrote this book has been working in the fields with ants for 17 YEARS! The book was kind of weirdly structured, as it first describes properties of the ant colonies, goes on to describe interactions of colonies, and then looks at individual colony behaviors. Personally, I would have preferred a complete bottom-up approach, but whatever. The book contains just about anything you want to know about red harvester ants, ...more
Charlotte
An interesting but slightly less informative book than I expected. My main impression was, despite the author's clear enthusiasm for her topic,that studying ants is extraordinarily difficult and I'm amazed we know as much as we do! Surely there must be some clever method for estimating the number of ants in a colony, for example - no. Nope. You dig up the colony and count, by hand, all ten or fifteen thousand ants. The portions of the book detailing the author's research methods seemed to involv ...more
Alejandro Ramirez
Dec 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
It throws little light on the issues I was more curious about: how did specialized behavior on simple units evolved? While it points to the fact that there are different role changes, caused largely by environmental changes perceived as chemical signals based on frequency and intensity of contact. Fascinating that nests behave differently as community at different ages, given that except the queen all ants live only 1 year. The grooming of the ants give them their group chemical signature, so an ...more
Chelsea Nash
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is an easy to read account of a series of several experiments observing harvester ant colonies in a small patch of land in the American Southwest. It's a great read even if your interests are not particularly ant-focused, as the author carefully describes her experimental methods and her well thought out methodology is itself a pleasant exercise in logical thinking. With any interest at all in ants this book is even more worth reading.
Al Manar Al Bastaki
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
The book was a little to complicated for me. Or maybe I wasn't interested enough in the topic. Either way, I have more respect for ants. I am pretty sure now when ever I find an ant colony I will sit there and study them, instead of destroying them and their hill. That was one of the main reasons I started reading this book. I wanted to know more about ants... Or at least enough to fall in love with them a little. I guess it worked.
Richard
Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Good little book. I’d say it’s about high school level or so, but it’s a good example of how science works. Observations are made, questions are asked, and experiments are designed to answer the questions. Didn’t learn as much about ants as I had wanted, but that’s okay. The book touches on a subject that we don’t know much about… colony behavior in social insects. She proposes possible explanations, but admits that we really don’t know why they act the way they do.
John Kaufmann
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
A short, fascinating read about ants. Gordon has studied ants, this is what she has observed and learned on her field trips. What I found most interesting was the different roles the ants play, and how it is decided which ones each does fill and when; how they forage, store and protect food, and defend and extend their territory. Great little book. Now I'm ready for more, something from E.O. Wilson, perhaps.
Richard
Good little book. I’d say it’s about high school level or so, but it’s a good example of how science works. Observations are made, questions are asked, and experiments are designed to answer the questions. Didn’t learn as much about ants as I had wanted, but that’s okay. The book touches on a subject that we don’t know much about… colony behavior in social insects. She proposes possible explanations, but admits that we really don’t know why they act the way they do.
Brian
Jul 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
A very disappointing book because the authors didn't really know many answers. This is a shame because they've done decades of research, but it seems that they only have arrived at superficial observations. The topic itself is very cool. I suppose if one is very interested in the topic and is willing to accept that they aren't going to learn many answers by reading this book, then it'd be okay.
J.K. Hannah
Feb 05, 2014 rated it liked it
A fascinating look into the life and social behaviors of ants. If you are going to read the entire book you may find some points a little repetitive. The simple language and story-telling approach is appealing for the general audience and makes this a quick read. For the scientist however, the format can come off as too informal. All in all, I learned a lot and think it was worth the read.
Groot
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a working scientist's detailed view of the ants she studies, told interestingly, with a doggedly curious, hardworking humility that is very appealing: she's studying ants, after all. Year after year, mounting to decades, she goes out to the desert to actually observe, analyze and learn about her tiny hive creatures.
Rose
Feb 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
if you ever wanted to know about red harvester ants, heres the book for you. seeing as i did, i really enjoyed it. then i did experiments with the hill in my albuquerque backyard, seeing what sorts of seeds they would eat and which they would discard...i'm a nerd.
Jeremy
Jun 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the writing is not superb, the ideas presented are. Overall, this is a great book. It is a fantastic exploration of how simple animals, with simple brains, can create and maintain complex societies, and accomplish complex goals.
Jason ("jcreed")
Apr 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Pretty good description of very interesting research. Started to drag a bit at the end, though.
Jim
Jul 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Dr Gordon has a lot of questions about Ants. She and her graduate students do some painstaking work to get the answers .
Christy
Dec 06, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I was disappointed to find this a relatively boring book. Not surprisingly, I put it down halfway through.
Carly Svamvour
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have a copy of this book and often open it, just to entertain myself. It's a fascinating account of just how 'ants work'.

Joe
Dec 26, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It did exactly what the title suggested, but went about it in a very boring manner. This just didn't grab my attention or interest - despite me being very jazzed to read it.
Taleen Kennedy
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Javier_Fernandez
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