The Guests of Ants: How Myrmecophiles Interact with Their Hosts (Hardback)
  • The Guests of Ants: How Myrmecophiles Interact with Their Hosts (Hardback)

The Guests of Ants: How Myrmecophiles Interact with Their Hosts (Hardback)

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Hardback 576 Pages
Published: 19/07/2022
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A fascinating examination of socially parasitic invaders, from butterflies to bacteria, that survive and thrive by exploiting the communication systems of ant colonies.

Down below, on sidewalks, in fallen leaves, and across the forest floor, a covert invasion is taking place. Ant colonies, revered and studied for their complex collective behaviors, are being infiltrated by tiny organisms called myrmecophiles. Using incredibly sophisticated tactics, various species of butterflies, beetles, crickets, spiders, fungi, and bacteria insert themselves into ant colonies and decode the colonies’ communication system. Once able to “speak the language,” these outsiders can masquerade as ants. Suddenly colony members can no longer distinguish friend from foe.

Pulitzer Prize–winning author and biologist Bert Hölldobler and behavioral ecologist Christina L. Kwapich explore this remarkable phenomenon, showing how myrmecophiles manage their feat of code-breaking and go on to exploit colony resources. Some myrmecophiles slip themselves into their hosts’ food sharing system, stealing liquid nutrition normally exchanged between ant nestmates. Other intruders use specialized organs and glandular secretions to entice ants or calm their aggression. Guiding readers through key experiments and observations, Hölldobler and Kwapich reveal a universe of behavioral mechanisms by which myrmecophiles turn ants into unwilling servants.

As The Guests of Ants makes clear, symbiosis in ant societies can sometimes be mutualistic, but, in most cases, these foreign intruders exhibit amazingly diverse modes of parasitism. Like other unwelcome guests, many of these myrmecophiles both disrupt and depend on their host, making for an uneasy coexistence that nonetheless plays an important role in the balance of nature.

Publisher: Harvard University Press
ISBN: 9780674265516
Number of pages: 576
Dimensions: 235 x 203 mm


This beautiful book is a true classic of biology and destined to be a standard work on the subject of symbiosis for many years to come. - Edward O. Wilson, author of Sociobiology

A marvelous tour of the wonderland of ants and the non-ant ‘guests’ that live with them. Bert Hölldobler and Christina Kwapich have combined fascinating science and first-rate scholarship to share what myrmecologists have learned about a rarely seen part of the natural world. - Thomas D. Seeley, author of The Lives of Bees

[A] profoundly researched, gloriously illustrated treatise on ant symbiosis. - Andrew Robinson, Nature

A book synthesizing the biology of myrmecophiles is long overdue, and now we have it. In The Guests of Ants, Bert Hölldobler and Christina Kwapich introduce us to this amazing menagerie, synthesize centuries of observations, and bring us up to speed on the latest science…A pleasure for any curious naturalist. - John T. Longino, American Scientist

The Guests of Ants gives a beautifully illustrated, wide-ranging, and critical literature review of this delightful corner of myrmecology…A must for myrmecologists and entomologists, but also more generally for biologists with an interest in social insects and insect ecology. - Inquisitive Biologist

A wonderful work that neatly weaves together the old and classic observations with recently gained insights into the fascinating but often enigmatic biology of myrmecophiles…Everyone with an interest in entomology will enjoy this book. - Thomas Parmentier, American Entomologist

I urge you to immerse yourself in The Guests of Ants…What Hölldobler and Kwapich have produced is a carnival of the extraordinary; a relentless and stunningly illustrated parade of the myriad organisms that have gained footholds in virtually every aspect of ant biology…It will be the quintessential resource for generations of researchers to come. - Joseph Parker, Current Biology

Fascinating…This encyclopedic account of the natural history of the guests of ants will surely serve as a useful and inspiring resource for myrmecologists in the years to come. - Annika S. Nelson, Quarterly Review of Biology

Prepare to be astounded, surprised, and charmed time and time again. This book is destined to become the authoritative work on ants and their guests for decades to come. - Walter R. Tschinkel, author of Ant Architecture

A deeply inspiring and masterful account of how myrmecophiles interact with their hosts, trick them by breaking their communication codes, and make their living inside the ant colonies. Lavishly illustrated, this book is a thorough and fascinating study. - Rüdiger Wehner, Professor and Director Emeritus, Institute of Zoology, University of Zürich

Hölldobler and Kwapich have masterfully marshalled a vast literature on the evolution and behavioral ecology of ants and their many associates. This book will have wide appeal to ecologists and evolutionary biologists, as well as anyone interested in the natural history of social insects and their friends and foes. - Naomi E. Pierce, Hessel Professor of Biology and Curator of Lepidoptera, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

A spellbinding journey to the exotic world of ants and their ‘guests.’ By far the most comprehensive treatment of this fascinating subject, this book is a delight. - Daniel Kronauer, author of Army Ants

Superbly illustrated and written with enthusiasm and delight, The Guests of Ants is unparalleled. This book provides first-class, fascinating coverage on the behavioral biology and mechanisms enabling myrmecophiles to coexist with, and frequently exploit, the ant superorganism. - Paulo S. Oliveira, coauthor of The Ecology and Evolution of Ant-Plant Interactions

This magnificent book takes the reader into a striking world largely unknown, even to most biologists. Comprised of lively, informative writing spiced with fascinating illustrations, The Guests of Ants highlights some of the most bizarre and unbelievable organisms on earth. I would have loved to have had such a book when I started my own research years ago. - Konrad Fiedler, University of Vienna, Austria

An outstanding celebration of natural history as modern science. World-renowned scientist Bert Hölldobler and entomologist Christina Kwapich present a treasure trove of information about the ant nest microcosm, complete with spectacular photos of members on the colony’s guest list, including butterflies, worms, fungi, and more. - Raghavendra Gadagkar, author of The Social Biology of Ropalidia marginata

This book provides a captivating, excellently illustrated overview of the complex interactions among ants and the many organisms who live inside their nests. A must-read for everyone who enjoys nature and the fascinating world of social insects. - Jürgen Heinze, University of Regensburg

This book is a stunning collection of these stories of myrmecophiles living with ants, with rich accounts of the interactions between guests and hosts. - Alexander Walton, Bulletin of the Entomological Society of Canada

An essential reference for any myrmecologist or entomologist. - Robert F. Foster, Canadian Field-Naturalist

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