Posted 30 March 2023
An Entomology expert from Harper Adams University is celebrating the publication of her latest book – a richly illustrated guide to the world’s ants.
Senior Lecturer in Entomology Dr Heather Campbell co-authored the book alongside Dr Benjamin Blanchard – with both authors drawing upon their knowledge of the subject to complement a richly-illustrated book on all things myrmecological – or relating to the study of ants.
Heather said: “The book itself is called Ants: A Visual Guide, and is full of beautiful photos of ants and our text shares all kinds of information on ants of various kinds – where they live, what they do and so on.
“Ants do such cool stuff, but people don’t think of them as beautiful or interesting – but they are! There are ants with incredible spines, others with beautiful golden hairs – there’s a lot of diverse types.
“The book itself is divided into six chapters which each cover a theme – such as anatomy, ecology, evolution, ants and humans and more. Interspersed with that there are profiles of different ants detailing an interesting aspect of their biology.”
Martian Ants, Martialis, were described from ONE WORKER in Brazilian rainforest. 2 workers were collected 5yrs earlier but the vial accidentally dried out. Eventually it was broken open & the fragmented ant pieces studied. No further workers have ever been discovered!!! pic.twitter.com/8zRpJ6vqPZ— Dr Heather Campbell-Miles (@scienceheather) March 3, 2023
Dracula Ants, Stigmatomma, perform larval hemolymph feeding. An adult ant begins by stroking a larva’s antennae, then uses specialized jaws to puncture through the abdomen to feed. The same individuals are fed on repeatedly & developing distinctive two-point puncture marks. pic.twitter.com/DDWXBVaBZM— Dr Heather Campbell-Miles (@scienceheather) March 3, 2023
Eciton Army Ants have extremely large colonies with new ones founded by fission. An unfertilized queen leaves the old colony with 1/2 the workers. The new colony receives males who mate with the unfertilized female. A fertilized queen produces 14 million eggs during her lifetime. pic.twitter.com/PVL7ZwN5q0— Dr Heather Campbell-Miles (@scienceheather) March 3, 2023
Hell Ants, Haidomyrmecinae (extinct subfamily) have upwardly pointing scythe-like mandibles & a forehead horn. Modern ant mandibles move side to side, but Hell Ant jaws go up & down. Some species would pin prey between their mandibles & a smooth, elongated horn. pic.twitter.com/GuRR7f1PMM— Dr Heather Campbell-Miles (@scienceheather) March 3, 2023
Nests of the Red Wood Ant, Formica rufa, house up to 22 myrmecophiles (spp that rely on ants for part of their life cycle) + 70 opportunistic occupiers, incl. wasps, beetles, flies & spiders. The Shining Guest Ant (a threatened UK species) can only live inside F. rufa nests. pic.twitter.com/6R6okRdPMB— Dr Heather Campbell-Miles (@scienceheather) March 3, 2023
This isn't a top ten ants because I could never choose but it's a good place to start. For more cool profiles of ants and an in depth look at their diversity, ecology, behaviour and more you can buy #AntsAVisualGuide by @PrincetonNature from wherever you buy your books— Dr Heather Campbell-Miles (@scienceheather) March 3, 2023
The work examines 42 different ant genera and includes more than 200 colour photographs of ants of all kinds, alongside infographics and diagrams. Throughout the book, Heather and Benjamin explore the complex and diverse life of their subjects –insects known for their social behaviour and incredible success in a wide variety of the earth’s environments, where they are indigenous on every continent except Antarctica.
It is the latest in a series of publications which Heather has worked on - from scientific papers to a children’s book for Ladybird – with the genesis of the work itself springing from a previous project.
Heather added: “I wrote a book chapter for a book called 60 Second Ecology. As part of the process, I was working with an editor – they said to me ‘if you ever want to write anything further, let us know’ and I said ‘yes, that would be great!’
“We got talking and they said ‘actually, one of your ideas might be a good fit for this series we are doing, would that work?’ – and that’s how this began.”
The work draws upon both Heather’s research – which has seen her study ants across the globe – and her teaching at Harper Adams.
She added: “I am an entomologist and an ecologist, and so I don’t study anything in isolation – my PhD was on ant-plant interactions and my postdoc research has all been about ants. I will talk to anyone that listens about ants – it could be in the book, it could be other academics, and it could be my students!
“As a lecturer, ants come into my teaching, at both postgraduate and undergraduate level – for a lot of the types of entomology that I teach, plus I do a week on ants themselves.
“A lot of the book has drawn on things I have taught to our students – and it will then feed back into my teaching in future. It’s a cyclical process!”