Eleanor Spicer Rice: Common Ants

 Common Ants cover

Common Ants cover

DR. ELEANOR’S BOOK OF COMMON ANTS
Eleanor Spicer Rice (NASW member) and Rob Dunn
Photos by Alex Wild
University of Chicago Press, September 15, $18.00
ISBN-10 : 022644581X; ISBN-13: 9780226445816

Rice reports:

Whether they’re snuggled in your acorns or sleeping under your doormat, ants surround you, quietly running the world as you go about your life.

This book explores the lifestyles and curious habits of the ants you’re most likely to encounter, from the kitchen-crusading odorous house ant (which smells just like blue cheese!) to the seed-planting winnow ant.

About seven years ago, two North Carolina State University biologists, Rob Dunn and Andrea Lucky, wondered which ants people were most likely to encounter in the United States. Acknowledging that we’ve cataloged remote tropical forests and global biological hot spots, they wanted to discover what’s actually living around us. To find out, Dunn and Lucky asked citizens across the country to collect and mail ants to N.C. State’s School of Ants project.

Eleanor Spicer Rice, photo by Raymond Goodman

Eleanor Spicer Rice, photo by Raymond Goodman

What they found shocked us myrmecologists. Not only were children mailing specimens from unlikely places, but some of our most common ants were so poorly understood they didn’t even have common names. We decided to write a book to introduce people to their often-overlooked neighbors and sometimes housemates.

Ants are ubiquitous. By watching them, we can learn a lot about our world. This book is a primer, guiding children and beyond through their world underfoot, and hopefully helping them form connections with some of the most abundant animals on earth.

We started the book as a free e-book. It later was picked up by the University of Chicago Press. The e-book was funded in part by grants from the NSF and Burroughs Wellcome fund. The University of Chicago Press later provided an advance to fund the series’ three location-specific books, Dr. Eleanor’s Book of Common Ants of California, Chicago, and New York City.

I had the pleasure of scouring peer-reviewed journals for tidbits on each species, and translating those tidbits into digestible stories for the general public. About halfway through the process, I began to interview researchers who’d devoted their careers to studying specific species. In hindsight, I would have contacted them earlier, as anybody who knows these ants understands their endearing characteristics — delightful mannerisms that come to life with the help of photos by the world-renowned myrmecologist and ant photographer Alex Wild.

Contact info:

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