Did you know that for every human on earth, there are about one million ants? They are among the longest-lived insects – with some ant queens passing the thirty-year mark – as well as some of the strongest. Fans of both the city and countryside alike, ants decompose dead wood, turn over soil (in some places more than earthworms), and even help plant forests by distributing seeds. But while fewer than thirty of the nearly one thousand ant species living in North America are true pests, we cringe when we see them marching across our kitchen floors.
No longer! In this witty, accessible, and beautifully illustrated guide, Eleanor Spicer Rice, Alex Wild, and Rob Dunn metamorphose creepy-crawly revulsion into myrmecological wonder. Emerging from Dunn's ambitious citizen science project Your Wild Life (an initiative based at North Carolina State University), Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants of Chicago provides an eye-opening entomological overview of the natural history of Chicago's species most noted by project participants – and even offers tips on keeping ant farms in your home. Exploring species from the hobbit ant to the tiny trapjaw ant, and featuring contributions from E. O. Wilson and Field Museum ant scientist Corrie Moreau as well as Wild's stunning photography, Dr. Eleanor's Book of Common Ants of Chicago will be a tremendous resource for teachers, students, and scientists alike. But more than this, it will transform the way Chicagoans perceive the environment around them by deepening their understanding of its littlest inhabitants, inspiring everyone to find their inner naturalist, get outside, and crawl across the dirt – magnifying glass in hand.
"Spicer Rice's style is clear, fluid, and engaging [...] Especially lovely is the abundance of photographs by Alex Wild, the Ansel Adams of arthropods."
– Carl Zimmer, National Geographic's The Loom
"Ant genetics and reproduction are complex topics, but Spicer Rice makes it easy to understand with minimal jargon. The species descriptions seem like stories about eccentric and entertaining relatives, rather than ants."
– Gwen Pearson, Wired
"Ants are everywhere. You can find them in the rainforests of the tropics, in the woods behind your house, or even in the cracks of the sidewalk in cities. This means that anyone, anywhere (except surprisingly with such an appropriate name, Antarctica) can find and observe ants [...] Our wish for you is to continue to observe and study the ants (and other species) in your backyard. There are still many, many unanswered questions to be addressed, scientific puzzles to be solved, and species in need of champions to fight for their protection."
– Corrie S. Moreau and Edward O. Wilson, from the epilogue
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Eleanor Spicer Rice is an entomologist and writer. Alex Wild is a wildlife photographer and curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin.
Rob Dunn is a biologist and writer at North Carolina State University. He is the author of Every Living Thing: Man's Obsessive Quest to Catalog Life, from Nanobacteria to New Monkeys, The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today, and The Man Who Touched His Own Heart: True Tales of Science, Surgery, and Mystery.