Ants have been walking the Earth since the age of the dinosaurs. Today there are one million ants for every one of us.
The closer you get to ants, the more human they look: they build megacities, grow crops, raise livestock, tend their young and infirm, and even make vaccines. They also have a darker side: they wage war, enslave rivals and rebel against their oppressors. From fearsome army ants, who stage twelve-hour hunting raids where they devour thousands, to gentle leafcutters gardening in their peaceful underground kingdoms, every ant is engineered by nature to fulfil their particular role.
Acclaimed biologist Susanne Foitzik has travelled the globe to study these master architects of Earth. Joined by journalist Olaf Fritsche, Foitzik invites readers deep into her world – in the field and in the lab – and will inspire new respect for ants as a global superpower.
Fascinating and action-packed, Empire of Ants will open your eyes to the secret societies thriving right beneath your feet.
Originally published in German in 2019 as Weltmacht auf Sechs Beinen.
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.
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 coauthor of many books, and has been published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines.
"Thrilling, compellingly readable, and paradigm-shattering. A gateway to a strange but strangely familiar society – a complex international community, ruled by stern, exotic, resonant and repercussive stories."
– Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast
"Both expert and entertaining, Empire of Ants will leave you in no doubt that these wonderfully strange little animals are among the most impressive of all our fellow creatures."
– David Barrie, author of Incredible Journeys
"Are we the sole rulers of this world? This wonderful book brings our tiny co-rulers alive via an engaging description of ants' cities, hard work, warfare, royalty, diversity, and ecological impact. These insects may be quite different from us, but their societies are eerily similar."
– Frans de Waal, author of Mama's Last Hug
"If you ever wanted to travel to an exotic planet filled with strange life forms – you've arrived. Every page of Empire of Ants brims with astonishing stories and facts that could never have been invented by a human mind."
– Carl Safina, author of Becoming Wild
"This is a charming tribute to the 'little creatures that run the world.' A very personal selection of the many wonders discovered in the world of ants that introduces readers to their fascinating lives."
– Bert Hölldobler, co-author of The Superorganism and Pulitzer Prize–winning The Ants
"Susanne Foitzik and Olaf Fritsche have you enter a whole new universe worthy of a science fiction novel, yet it exists right at your feet."
– Mark W. Moffett, author of The Human Swarm and Adventures Among Ants
"This highly entertaining book makes it clear that Mother Nature has been having a wildly fun time moulding these social insects into an abundance of behavioural and physical expression."
– Jonathan Balcombe, author of What a Fish Knows and Super Fly