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The Fire Ants

The Fire Ants

Walter R. Tschinkel

ISBN 9780674072404

Publication date: 03/11/2013

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Walter Tschinkel's passion for fire ants has been stoked by over thirty years of exploring the rhythm and drama of Solenopsis invicta's biology. Since South American fire ants arrived in Mobile, Alabama, in the 1940s, they have spread to become one of the most reviled pests in the Sunbelt.

In Fire Ants Tschinkel provides not just an encyclopedic overview of S. invicta--how they found colonies, construct and defend their nests, forage and distribute food, struggle among themselves for primacy, and even relocate entire colonies--but a lively account of how research is done, how science establishes facts, and the pleasures and problems of a scientific career.

Between chapters detailed enough for experts but readily accessible to any educated reader, "interludes" provide vivid verbal images of the world of fire ants and the people who study them. Early chapters describe the several failed, and heavily politically influenced, eradication campaigns, and later ones the remarkable spread of S. invicta's "polygyne" form, in which nests harbor multiple queens and colonies reproduce by "budding." The reader learns much about ants, the practice of science, and humans' role in the fire ant's North American success.


  • This is a wonderful book, comprehensive in its coverage of fire ant social biology, extraordinarily lucid in its description of complex topics, and beautifully synthetic in tying together the many disparate threads of evidence relevant to the discussion of each topic. The prose is concise and compact, but the wit and humor of the author penetrate even the most tedious technical parts to lighten up the text and make it a pleasure to read. The book is laced with insightful and humorous interludes that detail the tools and personalities involved in fire ant research, and covers the major topics likely to be of interest to evolutionary biologists and ecologists who study social animals, especially social insects. The Fire Ants is certain to be widely read.

    —Kenneth Ross, Professor of Entomology, University of Georgia


  • Walter R. Tschinkel is a Distinguished Research Professor of Biological Science at Florida State University.
  • Edward O. Wilson was Pellegrino University Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University. In addition to two Pulitzer Prizes (one of which he shares with Bert Hölldobler), Wilson has won many scientific awards, including the National Medal of Science and the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Book Details

  • 752 pages
  • 7 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press
  • Foreword by Edward O. Wilson