Book reviews.

    This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to our Cookie Policy.

    • Second , the development of workers / sexuals . He begins with saying that an ant develops in this sequence : eggs to larvae to nymphs / pupae ( with or without cocoon ! ) to adult workers / sexuals and that the place of the larvae and pupae in the nest are regulated by temperature and humidity ( Swammerdam , 1752 , also observed that ants relocate their young in the nest , depending on the temperature ! ) . And he also says that by disturbances the workers bring the larvae and pupae in security !
      But this is not yet finished . He gives descriptions of ( followed by some other observations by him . ) :
      - The eggs : They swell in six days six times in diameter . He doesn't know how this happens but gives a few hypothesizes how it could be .
      - The larvae in the eggs before they come out of them : There is also liquid in those eggs that serve to feed the larvae .
      - The hatched larvae : De Ráumur was the first to describe the feeding of the larvae by liquid and not solid food ( earlier than Gould , 1747 ! ) . He follows by saying that the workers also licked the larvae . The duration of the larval stadium he didn't know but he knew the larvae moulted a few times ( he found their skins ! ) and supposed that it was about fourteen days ( but this was to short ! ) .
      - The pupae of workers , females and males and the changes in coloration they go through : In some of the species , larvae spin cocoons , others not . Those larvae that spin cocoons stay for two days in it before they change into pupae . De Ráumur gives a detailed account of the spinning of the cocoon and that the duration for making it is around 29 hours . But then , he gives , as the first entomologist ever , the next observations : For starting the cocoon , the ant-larvae need solid bodies , like particles of wood , to glue the first treads on . When the cocoon is finished , the workers remove the solid particles ! De Ráumur doesn't know how long the pupal stage lasts , but the callow ants escape from the cocoons on their own . Since a long time , it is believed that De Geer , 1771 , was the first to see that the workers assist the callows to escape from the cocoons by opening them , but the first one to witness this was Lyonet in December 1743 , followed by Gould in 1747 .

      Carrying of workers .

      When studying the disturbance of Formica pratensis-nests ( pp. 101-105 in the original manuscript , pp. 190-194 in the translation and note # 96 on page 251 . ) , de Réaumur observed that some Formica-workers transported some rounded granules . When looking closer , he saw that they carried another worker ant . Bonnet was the first to observe this kind of behavior in Leptothorax ( and later on in Formica . ) in 1739 and published it in 1745 but he interpreted this behavior wrongly ( as part of hostility or irritation ! ) . De Réaumur however got it OK ! He describes that both ants had grasped one of the mandibles of the other , the carried ant brings its gaster under its thorax and fold up his legs . He also describes how an ant asks to be carried and how the other can refuse this to do . The carried ants are mostly workers but possibly sometimes a male !

      Notes on Ants .

      Now follow a few observations in the " Notes on Ants " !

      - De Réaumur describes in short the difference between larvae of workers on one side and larvae of queens / males on the other side . He reports that the workers lick the larvae and that they relocate the larvae depending on the humidity of the chambers in which they are placed ( pp. 113-114 , pp. 202-203 and note # 116 on p. 256 . ) .
      - De Réaumur describes an experiment in which he relocates larvae from one colony to another and that the workers of the last colony accept these larvae ( pp. 115-116 , pp. 204-205 and notes # 117-119 on p. 256 . ) .
      - De Réaumur reports about an experiment he conducted about colony foundation in ants . He placed two queens together with four workers . The deälated queen carried workers like described before ( pp. 118-119 and p. 208 . ) .
      - He describes how ants pass liquid food from one ant to the other : " Les fourmis qui se rencontrent se donnent a manger . L'une presente sa langue qui est lechee par celle de l'autre " ( p. 122 . ) , " Ants , when they meet , feed one another ; one of them presents her tongue , which is licked by that of the other " ( p. 211 . ) . Wheeler , in his note # 138 on p. 259 , says " This seems to be the first description of the method of mutual feeding among ants " .

      Some other things et al.

      - In this work and in the third and fourth volumes of the " Mémoires pour servir à l'Histoire des Insectes " , de Réaumur describes the relation between plant-lice / scale-insects and ants ( he was the first to discover this ! ) . He says that the ants lap up the sugary liquid produced by these insects . He makes one mistake , he says that this liquid in plant-lice is excluded by the anus ( correct ! ) and the two cornicles ( wrong , they produce a defensive substance ! ) . In scale-insects he was not sure about the source ( the same as in the plant-lice ! ) . See pp. 64-66 , pp. 152-154 and notes # 32 and 34 on pp. 231-232 .
      - In the discussion about the formation of polydomous colonies ( pp. 96-103 , pp. 186-192 . ) , de Réaumur gives some observations made by three others , Jean Baptiste du Tertre , Jean Baptiste Labat and Maria Sibylla Merian . They published some info about ants in Martinique ( the first two . ) and Surinam ( the last one ! ) . Now , these are a mix of observations , attributed to one ant , that are now allocated to different species and subfamilies ( on one side Eciton burchelli , E. hamatum or Labidus praedator belonging in the Ecitoninae and on the other side Atta sp. , a Myrmicine ) . The ants have fixed nests . The forays of these ants are explained as swarms that need a few days to find their new , fixed lodging . They cut leaves with their long mandibles . These parts of the leaves are used as larval food . The ants form living bridges between objects to far apart . But de Réaumur is very doubtful about all this ( see pp. 97-99 , pp. 186-188 and notes # 85-91 on pp. 250-251 . ) !!!
      - In note # 37 , Wheeler describes the invasion of different islands by " Formica omnivora Linn. 1767 ( Myrmica omnivora Latr. ) " and " Formica saccharivora Linn. 1767 " . The first one ( 1 ) is originally described as " Formica domestica omnivora Linn. 1767 " and is now determined as Solenopsis geminata Fabr. The second is based on " Formica minima saccharivora Brown " ( 2 ) and " magnitudo Formica caespitum " ( 3 ) . ( 2 ) is now determined as Tapinoma melanocephalum and ( 3 ) as Paratrechina longicornis Latr. In some publications ( 1 ) and ( 3 ) are inter-changed with the other explanation causing some big confusions ! This note is to be found on pp. 232-239 ( almost 7 pages ! ) .

      The End : A Myrmecological Time Machine !

      It is clear the Reaumur was far ahead of his time in his understanding of ants and in the methods to study them . No doubt , this must be the reason why W. M. Wheeler felt compelled to translate this manuscript . It is wonderful to have these glimmerings from the dawn of modern myrmecology .

      René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur was the first modern entomologist that studied ants ( among other insects . ) . This history about ants was never published because he started a discussion with an other big zoölogist of that time , Buffon . Buffon had so much power that he decided or something would be published or not . Unlucky for us , Buffon decided against the publication . The manuscript wasn't know for so long and even now , most myrmecologists don't know it . I'm very happy W. M. Wheeler published it !

      Hope you all liked this little trip back in time ! I did , so .....
    • Here follows an example of how your impressions of a book can change when you read it....

      The book:

      Karl Gößwald
      Die Waldameise. Biologie, Ökologie und forstliche Nutzung
      Prof. Karl Gößwald hat sich Zeit seines Lebens dem natürlichen Biotop- und Artenschutz verschrieben. So hat er stets die These vertreten, dass die „Rote Waldameise“, vorwiegend aus der Gattung Formica bestehend, von größter Bedeutung für das ökologische Gleichgewicht des Lebensraumes „Wald“ ist. Gerade in einer Zeit, wo dieses Ökosystem durch zahlreiche äußere Einflüsse erheblich gestört wird, ist eine Rückbesinnung auf biologische Vielfalt dringend erforderlich. Hier nimmt die Waldameise eine wichtige Rolle ein: Neben der Bekämpfung von Schadinsekten fällt die Verbesserung der Bodenstruktur, die Verbreitung von Sämlingen, der Schutz von Lachniden u.v.a.m. in ihr „Ressort“. Grund genug, das ursprünglich zweibändige Lebenswerk dieses Waldschützers in Form einer einbändigen, auf das Praxisfeld zugeschnittenen Sonderausgabe neu herauszugeben.
      1. Auflage, gekürzte Sonderausgabe in einem Band 2012. 652 S., 143 s/w-Abb., 126 Strichabb., 22 Farbtaf., 22 Tab., geb., Format 17 x 23 cm.
      Preis: 49,95 € ISBN: 978-3-89104-755-2 Best.-Nr.: 315-01129 Aula Verlag, Wiebelsheim.

      The original books are:
      Gösswald, K., 1989: Die Waldameise, Band 1: Biologische Grundlagen, Ökologie und Verhalten. (xi + 660 pp.)
      Gösswald, K., 1990: Die Waldameise, Band 2: Die Waldameise im Ökosystem Wald, ihr Nutzen und ihre Hege. (x + 510 pp.)

      The new book:
      Gösswald, K., 2012: Die Waldameise. Biologie, Ökologie und forstliche Nutzung. (xii + 630 pp.)

      First impressions:

      Gösswald died in 1996, so he didn't help with the new edition of his book(s). And I think it shows! As a reduced new edition of the two original volumes, I thought it would be easier for everybody to read and to follow. And it is also adapted for use by nature-conservationists, so, hopefully practical.

      When I looked through the new one for the first time, my impression was "We're back in the 80's!". And when I got at the references "Yes, they improved that!". You must know, the biggest negative point about the original books was the literature lists. But now, a modern-looking list (with the titles of the articles!), Yes, Good.

      Now, except those two literature lists in the original books, both books were very good. They were exhaustive in everything (only when you got to the details of the details of the details of the... you were referred to another publication!). But those 1170 pages did let you know everything about Formica s.s. in Europe that you had to know when you were interested in how they looked, their anatomy, their systematics, their determination, their behavior, their benefit for the forests, their protection, handling and keeping them,...

      And now I have the new book... I'm going to read it, yes (I did start with it already, got to page 8!) and will tell you what I think of it... And I hope that I can tell you very good things about it but at this moment I can only start with negative points (except for the literature list, see above!). First a few minor things: typographic errors. I met already a few of them: wrong letters (e.g. Prothorokalganglions, must be Prothorakalganglions) and missing spaces (e.g. Formicapolyctena, must be Formica polyctena).

      But more, in the explication of Farbtafel 3 (Color plate 3) I find a reference to fig. 196 that gives the respiratory system of a Formica-worker. In this book, fig. 196 is about woodantprotection through the protection of nests and the division of nests. In this new book there is no picture of the respiratory system of an ant! But in Band 1 from 1989.....

      The systematics are still the same as in Gösswald's time. So, NO mention of F. paralugubris! A conservationist in the field should also be in the possibility to determine it I think!

      The general description of a woodant (and the difference between male, queen and worker!) and it's anatomy occupies only 4 pages with, e.g., almost nothing about the exocrine glands that are so important for the ants. In the original books you were over flooded with info about all those glands!!!

      So, I'm sad about a bad start for a new book!

      And it gets not better.....:

      Yes, me again. I won't do a full review of this book... Why? It's clear for me now already. I'm not going to recommend it to anybody anymore. Why? Reached page 12 now and I did find a second reference to a figure that isn't in this edition any more. More? Yes, even the reference list isn't good (contrary to what I thought at first glance!). After 4 of the 69 pages of references I got really annoyed with it: One reference without title, one repeated twice, one twice under different dates and one twice under different authors.

      I'm still going to read it completely but only for myself but no review of it! This because my judgment is too much influenced by the very sloppy work done by the editor/publisher of the book. I even think Gösswald, if he was still alive, wouldn't like it with all the errors/mistakes in it.

      I only hope I can find something I didn't know or that I did forget but is worth to rediscover but, no, don't bother about it. For everybody that wants to read Gösswald's work about woodants, try to find the original books from 1989 and 1990.

      I will read this one just for me and, when needed, will go to the originals when I need a good review of European woodants. Luckily, I have them here at home. The publisher hasn't got the originals any more on offer. Shame, should have kept those on sale and not this "reworked" version!

      And so it ended, without finishing the book:

      Merkur (at that moment in time) hopes I'll continue my review of this book but why? For making a long list of all that can go wrong in a book?

      I completed the literature list and the types of possible mistakes has got longer:
      - There are a few references where you find author, year and part of the title and then... finished, nothing anymore.
      - One starts, gives another reference and then concludes the first.
      - One is repeated twice, first time with pages 127-198 indicated, then with pages 170-173.
      - For Gösswald, his 1985 book is twice in it and two of his publications of 1951 are each four times in it.

      For the text, I've reached page 26 and misery goes on.
      Again, a few times genus name and species name united.
      What is much worse: A determination key with words missing.
      Then, when reading about Raptiformica, in the middle of the paragraph, starting about something completely different.

      I think that this says enough about the editors of this book. But they are safe, their name is nowhere mentioned so they go unharmed away from this book. Worse is of course the damage done to Gösswald's name.

      So, sorry Merkur, but I won't go on with this. It's not a bad book written by Gösswald BUT a very bad edition made by one or a few editors. So I don't say anything anymore about this book because it's sloppy appearance is NOT Gösswald's fault.

      For everybody: Read the original 1989 and 1990 edition and forget this one!!!

      End of my review. Won't say anything anymore about it!!!

      And that was it. I never looked in it again! And when asked about Formica s.s. and working with them, I keep referring to the two original books.