The Fire Ants: Book by Walter R. Tschinkel

The Fire Ants

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ISBN: 9780674022072    Publisher: Harvard University Press Year of publishing: 2006     Format:  Hardback No of Pages: 752        Language: English
Walter Tschinkel's passion for fire ants has been stoked by over 30 years of exploring the rhythm and drama of Solenopsis invicta's biology. Since South American fire ants arrived in Mobile, Alabama, in the 1940s,...Read more
Walter Tschinkel's passion for fire ants has been stoked by over 30 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 encyclopaedic 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 harbour 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.
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About the author: Walter R. Tschinkel
Walter R. Tschinkel is a Distinguished Research Professor of Biological Science at Florida State University.

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Review:
I have been reading bits and pieces of the book, dipping in here and there like a chimpanzee with a twig, fishing for ants, and each time I have come up with something tasty and nutritious...My...Read more
I have been reading bits and pieces of the book, dipping in here and there like a chimpanzee with a twig, fishing for ants, and each time I have come up with something tasty and nutritious...My favorite ["Interlude"], an economical two-page essay called "The Porter Wedge Micrometer: Mental Health for Myrmecologists," ought to be required reading for any scientist who wants to write for the public...This brief essay is entertaining and significant, a real glimpse of what science is and how it is done by human beings, rational and un-, grappling with technique, nature and the gathering of information. This is what the public needs to know about science, not just the results presented in the driest form possible. -- James Gorman New York Times 20060425 This book is a masterly and detailed account of some of nature's greatest opportunists, the fire ants. It deals with their phylogeny, biogeography, social organization, parasites, and foraging behavior, together with their impacts on natural ecosystems and agriculture. Walter Tschinkel's holistic approach embraces topics at the molecular level and relates them to the colony and its organization. Tschinkel has researched these ants for thirty-five years at Florida State University, Tallahassee. He and several generations of his postgraduate students have been one of the major driving forces in fire-ant studies. This body of work required the mastery of finely tuned laboratory techniques in analytical chemistry, a detailed understanding of the natural history of the ants, extended periods of uncomfortable fieldwork and getting badly stung...Tschinkel's love of and fascination with the ants shines through the often highly technical aspects of The Fire Ants. He writes with great clarity and his book should appeal to the general reader, as much as the specialist. It is well illustrated with graphs, tables, and excellent photographs. -- Christopher O'Toole Times Literary Supplement
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