Annotated List of Books on Ants

This is a list of books about Ants. I have read all of them and own copies of most of them. I will be adding books as I get a chance to write a brief annotation.

Ant Biology

Hölldobler, B. and Wilson, E. O. 1990. The Ants. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 732.

—          2009. The Superorganism: the Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies. New York: W. W. Norton and Company. pp.522.

Pulitzer prize winning authors, Hölldobler and Wilson offer two thick books on ants. The first, sometimes considered the ant bible, is a compendium of ant information with identification keys.  The second, is a consideration of the idea of the superorganism and explains the current understanding of ant colonies, analogous to individual organisms in non-eusocial species.


Lach, L., Parr, C. L., and Abott, K. L., ed. 2010. Ant Ecology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  pp. 402.

This book is an excellent collection of articles on important ecological topics of particular importance to the study of ants. The book is well suited to introduce the topics and to be used as a reference. The chapters feature “future directions” and a summary. The book has a nice glossary, references list, and index. I think the book would make a good text for a course.


Rico-Gray, V. and Oliveira, Paulo S. 2007. The Ecology and Evolution of Ant-plant Interactions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. pp. 331.

This is an important survey of significant relationships and co-evolution between ants and plants. The authors bring together information from the literature and present it well with nice line drawings and an extensive literature cited section. Each chapter presents a different type of relationship with the specializations of the ants and plants that form this relationship. The book is a gem for myrmecologists but also for those interested in co-evolution.


Ants in Popular Culture and Myrmecological History

Sleigh, C. 2003. Ant. London, UK: Reaktion Books. pp. 216.

Sleigh’s book is an interesting survey of the ant in human culture.

—     2007. Six Legs Better: A Cultural History of Myrmecology. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press. pp. 302.

In this book Sleigh further pursues ant as a metaphor, model, and starting point for considerations in human thinking. Here she focuses more specifically on science giving historical accounts of the development of the study and thoughts about ants from important entomologists and myrmecologists.


Wilson, E. O. and Gomez Duran, J.M. 2010. Kingdom of Ants: Jose Celestino Mutis and the Dawn of Natural History in the New World. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press. pp. 95.

Kingdom of Ants is an excellent little piece concerning the beginnings of scientific research in the New World. This book will be of value to those interested in the early days of the European settlement of the New World, the history of science, and especially myrmecology, the study of ants. The book presents Mutis’ thinking through the ant observations he made and the authors’ commentary helps to decipher what Mutis understood and what he missed, giving the book a nice presentation of the beginnings of more objectvie scientific method.


Identification Guides and Keys

Ellison, A. M., Gotelli, N. J., Farnsworth, E. J., Alpert, G. D.  2012. A Field Guide to the Ants of New England. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 398.

This is a well-organized, well-designed guide which is the future of all such guide books. The book features chapters on ant biology, methods, and identification followed by the identification key, and a final chapter on biogeography. The key is supported with clear line drawings in the key and drawings illustrative of character states in the endpapers. The illustrations in the endpapers are an excellent addition for beginning myrmecologists who are uncertain of the character state descriptions.  The following descriptions are color-coded by genus and include photos of the habitat and the ant, distribution maps, and line drawings of the ant and important taxonomic features.


Fisher, B. L. and Cover, S. P. 2007. Ants of North America: A Guide to the Genera. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 194.

This is an excellent identification key to the genera.  It is easy to use with good line drawings in the key portion and photos,  diagnostic remarks, distribution and ecological information, and citations of papers for species identification in the genera description portion. Some of this work has been updated or revised with more recent taxonomic papers but this volume is still a good starting point.


Klotz, J., Hansen, Laurel, Pospischil, R., and Rust, M. 2008.  Urban Ants of North America and Europe: Identification, Biology, and Management. Ithaca, N. Y.: Comstock Publishing Associates. pp. 196.

This clear and concisely written book presents common pest species organized by subfamily and  provides good identification keys with excellent line drawings and clear markings of character states. The authors include important ecological, behavioral, and biological information with references. For each ant genus/species, they also provide pesticide information which further describes basic biology of the particular ants. The book concludes with a chapter on reactions to ant stings and bites which describes both allergic and toxic reactions, and a general chapter on management (details are provided in the earlier chapters) which includes biological controls and integrated pest management (IPM). There are several helpful appendices documenting scientific and common names (in several languages) with distribution references; a reference list; and an index. While the book is aimed at those needing management ideas, the book is of use to those more generally interested in ants and has implications for conservation.


MacKay, W. and MacKay, E. 2002. The Ants of New Mexico (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press. pp. 308.

This book is an excellent guide to New Mexico and its ants. The introductory section contains basic information about New Mexico and the collecting, study, and keeping of ants.The bulk of the book is a key beginning with the genera and followed by species descriptions. There are good line drawings which make anatomical characters clear. The species descriptions contain notes on the biology, habitat, and maps. This book is very accessible and suitable for anyone wishing to enjoy ants. A literature cited section, glossary, and species index are also included.


Groups of Ants

Cole, A. C. 1968. Pogonomyrmex Harvester Ants: A Study of the Genus in North America. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. pp. 222.

This is the first comprehensive taxonomic guide to the genus and includes some ecological information.  The book contains some nice distribution maps, black and white photos of some exterior nest forms, and helpful discussions of the taxonomic history of the species which comes in handy when reading older literature.


Gotwald, W. H. 1995. Army Ants: The Biology of Social Predation. Ithaca, NY: Comstock Publishing Associates. pp. 302.

An informative survey of the army ants including a taxonomic guide, the fossil origins and their biology especially with respect to social organization, clear line drawings, and some photographs. Gotwald concludes the book with a short chapter on the army ant in entomology and culture – somewhat akin to the works of Charlotte Sleigh.


Hansen, L. D. and Klotz, J. H. 2005. Carpenter Ants of the United States and Canada. Ithaca: Comstock Publishing Associates. pp. 204.

This book is an informative summary of the biology of carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) in North America. The text is clear if a bit choppy in some places.There are many good black and white, well-labeled diagrams and color photos. A key is included with distribution maps as well as a bibliography and index. The last chapter is on the importance and management of these ants.


Taber, S. W. 1998. The World of the Harvester Ant. College Station: Texas A & M Press. pp. 213.

Taber summarizes information about the harvester ant genus, Pogonomyrmex, including much of his own research. A comprehensive updating to Cole’s 1968 treatment.


Tschinkel, W. R. 2006. The Fire Ants. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. pp. 723.

Tschinkel gives a witty account of his involvement with the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta along with details of this ant’s biology.


Popular Books — meant for a general audience, accessible

Choe, Jae. 2012. Secret Lives of Ants. Baltimore, Maryland: John Hopkins Press. pp. 156.

Choe’ s book is a good basic introduction to ant biology for nonspecialists. His short chapters are well illustrated with photographs.


Grissell, E.2010. Bees, Wasps, and Ants: The Indispensable Role of Hymenoptera in Gardens. Portland: Timber Press. pp.335.

Grissell writes in an easy and conversational style. The first part is a nice overview of hymenoptera followed by a second part that goes into some detail of the groups with several chapters on wasps. The last chapter is one ants and except for one error (Grissell claims that Pogonomyrmex maricopa is only found in Arizona – -they are found in several states, see Taber’s book on the genus)  and that he neglects the other seed harvesting ant genera, such as Messor, this is a good overview of the importance of ants. Grissell also notes useful books in the chapters and has a list of families and their larval feeding habits, websites, and references.


Gordon, D. M. 1999. Ants at Work: How an Insect  Colony is Organized. New York, NY. The Free Press. pp. 182.

—          2010. Ant Encounters: Interaction Networks and Colony Behavior. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp.  167.

These two books by Gordon are good summaries of the work she has been doing for many years on the Barbatus harvester ant (Pogonomyrmex barbatus). Gordon fully discusses her work and ideas without lots of technical language. She also did a TED talk about her work, The Emergent Genius of Ant Colonies. These books bridge the gap between natural history and scientific study.


Keller, L. and Gordon, E. 2009. The Lives of Ants. Oxford University Press. pp. 252.

Keller and Gordon offer a good introduction to ant biology for the nonspecialist with nice, short chapters.


Moffett, M. W. Adventures Among Ants: A Global Safari with a Cast of Trillions. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 280.

This is a wonderful account of Moffett’s travels and beginning studies on ants. He recounts his adventures with humor that also highlights the biology and natural history of the ants. His wonderful photographs illustrate the book and he includes a good section of notes for each chapter. This is a great story.


Comments welcome.