Life Among the Ants

Weaver ants gathering leaves for their nest. Photo © Mark W Moffett/Minden Pictures

It’s a safe bet that Mark Moffett, aka “The Indiana Jones of Entomology”, has some good travel stories up his sleeve.

Moffett, author of Adventures Among Ants, has been at the scene of driver ant raids in Nigeria, watched leafcutter ants grow fungus farms in Paraguay and weaver ants build foliage nests in Malaysia, and stood at the front lines of the world’s largest battlefield, a territory dispute between two ant empires in suburban San Diego.

Fascinated by their amazingly organized social structures, Moffett has tracked down, studied, and photographed ant societies on almost every continent. In his book, he describes a spectacular “ant garden” in Peru’s forest canopy, that two species of ants had built together:

“Nestled in this mass of epiphytes, a confederation of these two ants had constructed a quarter-meter-wide treetop house of carton, papery sheets they produced by masticating plant matter and soil. The workers then collected seeds and embedded them in the carton. There the seeds grew into cacti, bromeliads, figs, orchids, philodendrons, and anthuriums, creating a bounteous garden.”

As for the countless ant stings he’s received over the years, Moffett said in a Fresh Air interview, “I don’t take them personally.”

Atlas Obscura, the website that explores the world’s strange and curious places, has a new video series called “So There I Was”, that features people talking about their most outlandish travel experiences. The first video stars Moffett, who tells us what happened when he and some fellow travelers got lost on Cambodia’s backroads. Here’s the Atlas Obscura video:

3 thoughts on “Life Among the Ants

  1. Due to its extremely complex society and their fondness of working unceasingly, I think ants should have been a sort of materialistic human race in a most remote past. Now they have some reminiscences of that time and that is what we deem so amazing. But their lack on intelligence tells us that this is not the way.

  2. I think this video is absolutely fascinating, the sheer strength and teamwork of ants never ceases to amaze me. More so that two species are actually working together (something that I was not aware of).

  3. Ants use several forms of communication. Ants touch their antennae to communicate. They also use pheromones as communication. Pheromones are stinky chemicals excreted from glands throughout the ants body. These chemicals are received by other ants antennae.
    Pheromones are used to alert other ants of danger, mark trails, identify each other, enlist the help of other ants and scare off enemies.

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