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: