Thursday, June 9, 2011

Natural Cycles, Ants and Humans by Drew Bell

In the comments to my last post, several of you have picked up themes about natural cycles in The Anthill Chronicles. Wilson has traced the "history" of several ant colonies and their interactions with each other and the environment. Many of you have also pointed out parallels between ant behaviors and human behaviors.

What points do you think Wilson is trying to make about natural cycles? In particular, what do you think Wilson might be trying to teach us about the human place in and impact on nature? Even though this section of the book is written from the ant perspective, is it about ants alone? How does Wilson weave these lessons together with the other sections of the book?


Kate said...

Hi Drew. It has been fun reading this section of the book while reading your posts at the same time.

To answer your questions about whether Wilson uses the ants to teach us about the place of humans in nature, and whether this section of the book is just about ants: I think Wilson is subtly showing us how similar any social insect or animal can be. When the queen dies, the colony starts to fall into chaos. I found this fascinating simply because it resonates so much with human society. When we lose a leader, things become a bit chaotic while we reorganize ourselves around a new leader.

This is really interesting stuff - I'm enjoying this part of the book the most so far.

Kate said...

Also, I'm curious to know whether you have a favorite species of ant, Dr. Bell! Until reading this book and learning more about ants, I didn't realize there were so many different species.

Drew said...

Kate, I am very happy that you are enjoying both the book and my posts - that is very gratifying. As for a favorite species of ant, that is tough. To me it is like a parent trying to decide their favorite child. I can give a few that I am particularly fond of. Allegheny Mound Builder ants are great because of the fantastic architecture of their mounds. They are also one of the species I grew up with. I think Leaf Cutter ants are fascinating, and I am intrigued by the different physical castes they have. Recently, I have grown more fond of Red Harvester ants because of their tractability in research. I could probably go on, but those are a few.

Kate said...

Dr. Bell, thank you for your response! As a follow-up, I've just started to read a bit more about the Allegheny Mound Builders and the Red Harvester ants. (I've always thought Leaf Cutter ants are cool - and they sure seem to get more of the limelight as far as ants go!). I think for most of us laypeople, we tend to think that an ant is an ant - it was a real eye-opener for me to learn there are 20,000 different species on the planet! Wow! So, thank you for feeding my new found curiosity. I look forward to learning more.