THE EARTH DWELLERS by Erich Hoyt

THE EARTH DWELLERS

Adventures in the Land of Ants

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Leaf-cutters, weavers, acrobats, carpenters, and harvesters- -ants all, and Hoyt gets their measure in this extraordinary tour d'horizon of an ant's life. Hoyt, who made his naturalist's name writing of leviathans (The Whale Called Killer, 1981, etc.) turns now to motes, in whose realm he is just as comfortable and inspired; he fashions the ants into enchanting creatures: busy, busy, busy, always hunting and gathering, jousting and warring, executing and slaving. And that's just the surface, for what goes on in underground nests is even more astounding. In the dark, fungal gardens grow in the 2,000-room mansions that house a queen and her millions of workers. But Hoyt does much more than simply tabulate one wild ant-fact after another. He charts their daily toils and dramas, sketches their biological and sociological frames, then from these foundations spins theories of evolution, behavior, ecology, and chemical communication. Myrmecologists E.O. Wilson and William L. Brown Jr. figure prominently in Hoyt's tale (inevitably, since they are to ants as Audubon is to birds). They prove to be as curious as their quarry (``warm and funny, yet strange and obsessive,'' in Hoyt's words), two gents prone to such comments as ``Pardon me while I have good drool'' (said while poking through an ant midden in the field) or ``He's going to sting me. He's stinging me. Oh, I've been stung.'' Wilson's travails as the father of sociobiology, bugbear of the left in the 1970s, are thoughtfully raked over. Best of all is Hoyt's chronicling of an ant's day afield: ``A worker ant . . . stands on the leaf of a low-growing bush. . . . The air is pungent with leaf sap. As it drips from the leaf, she stops to lick a drop or two for refreshment.'' Readers get right down on all six to join the action. Fabulous stuff, commandingly told with wit, color, and grace. (illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-684-81086-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1995