Monday, February 6, 2017

Ant Book #4

It’s on its way at last!
After seven months of intensive reading, research, discussion and revision, 
ANTS OF SOUTHERN AFRICA is at the printer!
It should be available for delivery by March 20th 2017.
Technical details of the book are below, but first ...

An early decision was to spare no expense in terms of colour, size, binding etc.; with the heavy costs involved the book will retail for around R295 (hey! that’s still less than a new Deon Meyer novel!). Despite that it’s a pleasure to be able to make this ...
SPECIAL OFFER to all you generous iSpot photographers and many others – if you pre-order the book before publication you’ll be eligible for a R50 discount on every copy that you buy online (South Africa only). 
What’s more, the first 100 purchasers will receive FREE a 60x mini-microscope worth at least R80.*
* Note: 
1. If you want a discount on more than one copy you must buy the books in a single order; the system will disqualify you if it detects your email in a second order; 
2. NO MORE FREE MICROSCOPES LEFT - Sorry!
3. Discount only valid on pre-publication orders.
Lepisiota incisa: Photo by Wynand Uys

PRE-ORDER here: 
1. FOR DELIVERY IN SOUTH AFRICA ONLY:
Go to our Slingsby Maps online shop [click here]; add Ants of Southern Africa to your cart and follow the purchasing procedure [Log in, check out, etc].
*At check-out you’ll be asked for a Discount Code. Enter the word ANTBOOK (all caps) and R50 will be discounted from your bill.
* We recommend that you choose the courier delivery option.
* If you prefer to pre-order by direct EFT, please email me at peter@slingsby.capetown .
2. FOR INTERNATIONAL DELIVERY ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD: [click here]

DOWNLOAD A SAMPLE CHAPTER (pdf) HERE


Some of the more than 100 sketches in the book

TECHNICALS

ANTS of Southern Africa: a Friendly Guide

This is the first Field Guide to Southern African ants ever published. Lavishly illustrated with Philip Herbst's fabulous macrophotographs, and the best of some fifty more observers from ‘iSpot’, the book details 225 of the most common species, with notes about another 400.

“Peter Slingsby writes with humour and with a refreshing lack of pomposity. With its amazing photos and Peter’s superb illustrations ... this is a very welcome addition to the books on the natural history of southern Africa and will surely open eyes and minds to these intriguing and important insects.” 
William Bond, Senior Scientist, SAEON

“The colour images of live ants, the ‘how common’ ranking, providing the actual size, the major habitats, the distribution—all this is genius!”
Brian L. Fisher, California Academy of Science
One of Philip Herbst's fabulous photographs that enrich this book

Details:

Page size 170 x 240 [portrait format];
256 pages, full colour throughout, stitch-bound with semi-hard cover with two gate-folds
Contents include: 
The biology of ants
How to identify ants
225 species described and illustrated with more that 300 super photographs and 100 sketches
400+ more species described
Comprehensive habitat and locality endpaper maps, index and bibliography
Foreword by Prof. Emeritus William Bond
Text and sketches by Peter Slingsby
Photography by Philip Herbst and 50 others
Layout and setting by Peter Slingsby
Edited by Maggie Slingsby
ISBN  978-1-920377-04-5
Christine Sydes' great pic of a Botswana Camponotus fulvopilosus

Order your book now while the discount applies – and my grateful thanks to all of you whose pictures, comments and support have made this project possible!

– Peter Slingsby, Zandvlei

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Ant Book 3

1. New Ants, finding ants

2. More new ants

3. AntBook News: quotes, prices, dates

4. Drawing ants

5. Photographers: iSpotters on board

6. Chains-of-ants: a YouTube

1. New Ants, finding ants

The ink was hardly dry on Blog #2 when the remarkable (redoubtable?) Flippie proceeded to post eight more ants-on-iSpot in the two weeks before leaving for the UK. In fact he found a new ant, photographed it and posted it on iSpot on the last the day before he flew out for 6 months with his family – that’s devotion for you!
What’s more, no less than five of the ants that Flippie posted between July 29th and August 13th were species new to iSpot and hence the AntBook. Well, nearly new. One, Camponotus bertolonii (Brown sugar ant), we thought we had – but Flippie’s new post turned out to be the correct species, while one we had earlier misidentified as this species was in fact the much less common C. bianconii (Bianconii’s sugar ant). 
Camponotus bertolinii: pic by Philip Herbst
This was quite pleasing, as C. bianconii is apparently a Cape Peninsula endemic that, uniquely amongst our local Camponotus, nests under the loose bark of dead trees where it constructs ‘carton’ nests of vegetable fibres that are remarkably similar in consistency (but not external appearance) to the nests of various Crematogaster (cocktail ant) species.
Camponotus bianconii in its carton nest (Silvermine, TMNP)
Flippie also found and photographed, from his own Welgemoed garden, the rare, tiny Plagiolepis puncta (Stippled restless ant), Tetramorium erectum (Erect-spined fierce ant), Tetramorium pusillum (Tiny fierce ant)  and a rep from whole new genus, Hypoponera eduardi (Eduard’s crypt ant).
The tiny [>2mm] Plagiolepis puncta [Stippled restless ant]: 
pic by Philip Herbst
Hyponera is a genus of the Ponerine or Ringbum ants; the American myrmecologist John T. Longino wrote (as I have quoted him in the book), “The genus Hypoponera usually triggers avoidance behavior in myrmecologists. Phil Ward has described them as ‘remarkably featureless’ ... the genus is monotonously uniform in habitus, and it is a boring habitus. If Ponerinae is a Mr. Potato Head game, Hypoponera is the potato. So why bother? Because Hypoponera are relatively common ants, and they are an important element in biodiversity surveys involving ants ... in mature forest areas they segregate by vertical microhabitat, some preferring the forest floor, others living in the soil that accumulates beneath epiphyte mats high in the canopy. Others prefer open or highly disturbed habitats. These are often ‘tramp’ species spread widely by human commerce.”
Indeed, Hyponera eduardi is a tramp species that originates from the Mediterranean region and so is technically an invader – but so uncommon and secretive that it’s hardly a problem.
Hyponera eduardi [pic by Philip Herbst] – perhaps we should rename it the Potato ant

2. More new ants

Ricky Taylor (Camponotus olivieri – Olivier’s sugar ant), Robert Taylor (Tetramorium glabratum – Red feigning fierce ant) and Magda Botha (Crematogaster delagoensis – Delagoa cocktail ant) have all found and posted ‘new’ ants since the previous AntBook blog, great additions to the number of photographed species in the book. 
Olivier’s sugar ant [pic: Ricky Taylor] differs from the Bristle-back sugar ant [below]
in having no glabrous stripe down the middle of the gaster. It is also smaller ...

Lynette Rudman also generously sent me a whole portfolio of her great photos of various species, most of which I am still sorting, but which included pics of the magnificent Bristle-back sugar ant (Camponotus postoculatus) from her Grahamstown garden: another new species for the book.
The Bristle-back sugar ant (Camponotus postoculatus): Lynette Rudman’s
great pic depicts ants from different nests having a disagreement –
note the antenna [ant left] in the mandibles [ant right]

3. AntBook News: quotes, prices, dates

‘Bad news’ first: I have no publication date for the book yet. I still make my living out of Slingsby Maps and from time to time I have to close my Ant Book files (with great reluctance) and get on with some mapping: so September so far has been mostly mapping. I am halfway through the Ponerinae with relatively few pages of the book unfinished (about 30 of 240), but a book is like a building: once the roof goes on and the windows are in the building looks complete, but the finishing is the slowest part of all; so to with a book. There is an index to compile, proofreading to be done, final tweaks all around – not to mention the printing and binding, which needs at least a month. Hence I have pretty much abandoned thoughts of a Christmas edition, and am looking at Jan/Feb 2017 instead. Let’s just play safe and say Easter 2017!
The Good News is that we have printers’ quotes, some of which are better than expected, so we are looking at a 240-page full-colour A5 field guide retailing for around R240– R260 (or you can buy a novel printed in black only, on cheap paper, for around R350!!) – which I think is a fair price. I am also going to make a discounted deal available to all who have contributed to the book and/or subscribe to this blog, and I’m hoping to throw in a discounted 60x mini-microscope as well.

4. Drawing ants

One of the things holding up publication of the book is the need to draw several ants, where photographs are not available. I made a ‘policy decision’ at the beginning of the process not to use photos of dead ants in this book; these are freely available on the internet from sites such as AntWeb. If no photos of living specimens are available I felt it would be better to provide good sketches that attempt to show the salient features of the species. So I have ended up with, for example, 18 Tetramorium to draw. These are all species common enough to justify inclusion in the book, but I have no access to photos of living specimens. Future editions might have such photos but in the meantime I’m busy evolving ways of ‘mass producing’ sketches that, while perhaps not fully technically detailed, at least show the characteristics that enable identification. A bit challenging ... but here are some Tetramorium-in-the-making; maybe in the next blog I’ll have the final result!


5. Photographers: iSpotters on board

Please! If I have left you out, my humble apologies – and please let me know asap!

Alex Dreyer, Alexander Rebelo, Andrew Deacon, Andrew Hankey, Betsie Milne, Brian du Preez, Caroline Voget, Charl Strydom, Charles Stirton, Chris Browne, Christine Sydes, Colin Ralston, Detlef Schnabel, Duncan Butchart, Eugene Marinus, Guido Lamberty, Irene Vermeulen, James McCulloch, Jeffrey Groenewald, Johan Pretorius, Joseph Heymans, Kate Braun, Lara Wootton, Lee Jones, Liz Popich, Ludwig Eksteen, Lynette Rudman, Magda Botha, Marian Oliver, Marion Maclean, Mostert Kriek, Nicola van Berkel, Peter Webb, Philip Herbst, Riana & Mike Bate, Richard Adcock, Ricky Taylor, Robert Taylor, Ryan van Huyssteen, Sally Adam, Scott Ramsay, Sue Marsden, Tim van Niekerk, Tony Rebelo, Will van Niekerk, Wynand Uys

6. Chains-of-ants: a YouTube clip

Have a look at this YouTube – get past the not-for-the-squeamish demise of the wriggly millipede to the extraordinary ‘chains’ formed by these Leptogenys ants. I’ve never observed anything like this in any Southern African ants ...
Click HERE to start the video, then click on the forward arrow, bottom left ...

I hope you’ve enjoyed this third blog post. I will post new info from time to time, and keep you up to speed on the book’s progress.

All the best

Peter Slingsby

Friday, July 29, 2016

Ant Book 2

1. Operation Flying Ants!

2. Book News: how many species, how many pages

3. Genus keys

4. Iimbovane

5. Photographers: iSpotters on board

6. Can you help me find pics of these ants?

1. Operation Flying Ants!

It all started back in March when Mel de Morney, picking up on Philip Herbst’s brilliant macrophotography, suggested that I send Philip some living samples of our mystery Ochetellus invader, to photograph. A ziploc full of ants was duly couriered to Philip and within days his great pics of these tiny, 1.8 mm insects had circled the world for a positive ID from experts on three other continents.
When Philip sent me the pics he included a note: “If there are any other ants I can photograph, just send them ...” We couriered a few others, but most of them arrived in Bellville as dead as doornails. No good. One of my commitments with the book is that it should show living specimens – or graphics – because there are plenty of pics of dead ants on the internet. That’s fine for taxonomists with powerful microscopes but it does not help you and I to learn what they look like when they’re running around in the veld.
A curious thing about ants is that, being social animals, they can’t survive on their own. Shut one up in solitary and it will die quite quickly. They appear to need the constant mutual grooming and interchange of pheromones between them and their fellows to survive. They also need moisture, but not too much; experiments with small plastic bottles, a couple of juicy leaves and a sprinkle of soil or vegetable mulch from their own nest followed. These worked well, and the game was on. By the end of June Philip had photographed ants I had collected in the Cederberg, at Cape Point and at Silvermine.
That’s when Ricky Taylor stepped up to the plate. “Why,” Ricky reasoned, “should the ant book not also have some superb Flippie-pics of KZN ants?”

We posted a supply of plastic ant-bottles to Ricky in Mtunzini. While he waited patiently for his parcel (it arrived in a few days but despite names, addresses and tracking numbers his local post office steadfastly denied any knowledge of it, until he twisted some arms), Ricky went out and located ant nests in his immediate environment. His local species list was mouth-watering. With the bottles in hand Ricky filled them with wonderful ants. Nervous of SAPO and how long our precious specimens might have to languish on a shelf somewhere, we sent a courier – and in a few hours a cargo of KZN ants was being airlifted to Cape Town. Operation Flying Ants was underway.
As regular iSpotters will know, the rest is history. Despite our fears of depressurised, unheated cargo holds, etc etc. all Ricky’s ants arrived fighting fit at Philip’s Welgemoed door. So, with his own Welgemoed and Tygerberg ants, plus a few from Lakeside and supplemented with a few more from Cape Columbine, Philip has posted magnificent photographs of no less than forty eight species, of which an amazing fourteen were brand new to iSpot.
We’d like nothing better than to offload more and more ants on Philip in his Welgemoed kitchen/photo studio, but sadly (from our point of view) Philip and his wife Karen are off to Europe for a six month study sabbatical, leaving within days. Philip, Karen – with your little girls, go well and enjoy your six months in London. By the time you return the book will hopefully be in print, but there’s always a second edition to think about ...
To spoil our future readers, the Ant book will feature a few
 double-page spreads of enlargements of some of Philip’s – and other iSpotters’ –
fantastic pics. Click on the picture to enlarge it ...

In other photo news, Sally Adams sent me this link to a new 3D imagery process used for some newly-discovered ants in Papua New Guinea...



Some of the images can be seen here: click on the square symbol on the bottom right of the movie when it opens, to get a full-screen experience ...



2. Book News: how many species, how many pages

At the current count the book will describe and illustrate the 176 most common ant species of South Africa, with brief descriptions of another closely-related 238 species, giving a total of 414 species from 55 genera. Thanks to you iSpotters I only have 22 species left to draw! – but any new pics will be extremely gratefully received!





3. Genus keys

How easy is it to ID ants to genus level? Above is an illustration of a [provisional] genus-key page from the book. If you have any comments or anything else you’d like to see there, please let me know. Click on the pics to enlarge them.

4. Iimbovane

Maggie and I spent a pleasant hour or two with Dorette and Sophia of Iimbovane, at Stellenbosch, when we agreed to cooperate wherever we can with regard to the book. They are doing absolutely inspiring work through the Iimbovane project, using ants as the basis for environmental education at Western Cape Schools. For more info about Iimbovane see here.  
One of the issues is Common Names – we need someone to check the grammar and context of Afrikaans common names – and if possible, collect common names in other official languages. Any offers?

5. Photographers: who is on board

Marion Maclean, Charl Strydom, Jeffrey Groenewald, Liz Popich, Ludwig Eksteen, and Tim van Niekerk have joined the thirty-eight iSpotters who have kindly given permission for their great pics to be used in the book. Once again I would like to thank you all – and reiterate that even if in the end I don’t use your pics, you will be acknowledged.

I’m still looking for these iSpotters. Any ideas?  Email addresses needed, if possible – could you send them to me at peter@slingsby.capetown  . There are a few pics that I would really like to use as they are the best available for certain species.

 Tom Stewart

6. Can you help find pictures of these ants?

Here’s a daunting list of 13 ant species that I need photos for – or else I might have to try to draw them. There were 19 more, but some have been photographed and the rest I have abandoned as ‘too obscure’.  After all, if only one single specimen of an ant has ever been found, I doubt if you’ll need to ID that ant anytime soon ...


Anochetus levaillanti (Small dark trapjaw ant) all provinces except KZN, plus Namibia and Zimbabwe),

Cerapachys arnoldi (small relative of Dorylus) Western, Eastern Cape

Diplomorium longipenne rare small ant from Eastern Cape strandveld

Discothyrea poweri, Probolomyrmex filiformis, Proceratium arnoldi -- the only reps from the Proceratiinae subfamily on my list, from Western, Eastern, Northern Cape; KZN; and Zim [all small and not very noticeable]

Hypoponera punctatissima, Hypoponera eduardi (Crypt ants) -- invasive small ponerines found in KZN, Eastern & Western Cape, Botswana and Zim

Leptogenys attenuata, Leptogenys capensis, Leptogenys peringueyi -- fairly common largish rajor-jaw ponerines found in KZN, Wesern and Eastern Cape and Zim

Ophthalmopone hottentota -- large ponerine with big eyes, Klein Karoo, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape

Trichomyrmex destructor -- dangerous invader, used to be a Monomorium, so far has been found in KZN in Durban and Richard's Bay

I hope you’ve enjoyed this second blog post. I will post new info from time to time, and keep you up to speed on the book’s progress.

All the best

Peter Slingsby

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ant Book 01

1. Why an antbook?

2. Content of the book

3. Sample page with explanation

4. Photographers: iSpotters on board

5. Can you help me find these iSpotters?

6. Can you help me find pics of these ants?



1. Why an antbook?

In 1961 the great entomologist Sydney Skaife published a book titled The Study of Ants. It was the first ‘citizen science’ book about Southern African ants ever published, and it sparked an interest in me that I have retained ever since. Skaife died in 1976 and his book went out of print; in 1991 I put together a little black and white booklet, Ants of the Western Cape; Hamish Robertson of Iziko museums, as great an entomologist as Skaife, had helped me avoid the worst of my amateur bloopers. The second – and much less useful – citizen science book about Southern African ants was born.
Twenty-five years later that is still all there is. Outside of academia there are two books, both long out of print, and a couple of relatively academic websites that, very valuable as they are, specialise in pictures of dead ants with almost no information about their habits, their nature, their basic biology – and amazingly inadequate information about their distribution. That’s all there is, if you wanted to find out anything about our ants.
I joined Tony Rebelo’s iSpot (I know he’ll say it wasn’t his, but don’t believe him – in those days it was) and I soon found that there were lots of people who were photographing and posting and wondering about, amongst lots of other things, ants. There were nearly 2000 photographs of ants from all over Southern Africa, taken by iSpotters, and many of them were of a very high quality. Here was a resource that was crying out to be presented, in book form, to a wider public. 
Na├»vely I had no idea of the kind of tiger I was taking by the tail. Blithely ignoring the fact that ALL science started with citizen scientists, one prominent academic pronounced that amateurs could ‘not be relied upon to identify ants’. A very little research reveals a big problem with that silly, arrogant statement: the academics themselves, even the world’s greatest, do not agree upon species identification within some of the largest and most prominent of Earth’s ant genera. In short, they can’t identify them – at least, not to every so-called professional’s satisfaction, without lots of interestingly bad-tempered disagreement.
Hence I have plunged in where greater angels might have feared to tread. There will be errors in this book: some of the genera are screaming for taxonomic revision, for starters. Here and there I might have a wrong photo, but please bear with me: precise help has not always been easy to find. I acknowledge that many ants – the tiny ones, the LBJ’s of the ant world, especially – can only be identified under high-powered magnification. Nevertheless there are dozens of others – who could mistake the magnificent hairy yellow gaster and gaping jaws of a Karoo balbyter? – that anyone with good vision (they are all small), good sense (they fit into categories – subfamilies –  pretty simply, actually) and enthusiasm (you ought to have it, ants reputedly form 20% of Earth’s dryland biomass) can learn about.
And the more enthusiastic citizen science we can focus upon ants, the more – much, much more – we’ll learn about these extraordinary insects, their habits, behaviour, what they eat, how they interact with other organisms, and even matters as basic as where they are.


Photo by Flippie

2. Content of the book

I don’t propose to go into this in great detail at this stage, as much may yet change. In broad strokes, these are the proposed sections:

A. Background: about ants, the colony structure and different nests, ant behaviour and ecological role, anatomy, ants vs termites [still necessary after all these years!].

B. Keys to subfamilies and genera. Key to habitats, distribution areas etc and symbols used in the book.

C. Species descriptions: arranged in 9 subfamilies, approx 200 of the most commonly-found species described and illustrated [see sample page below]

D. Appendices: Ant imitators; collecting, killing and keeping ants; famous myrmecologists; bibliography and websites; glossary of entomological terms; Index. If there is space I would like to include ‘quick’ area indexes as well.

3. Sample page with explanation.


Sample showing facing pages: the size of each page is about A5

This is the text page by itself. If you can’t read it, clicking on the pic will usually enlarge it.
Features: background shading changes with subfamily, making these easier to find. In each species entry there is a bit of informative text, followed by a more formal ‘taxonomic’ description – the technical terms are explained in the Glossary at the end of the book.
Under the text are a series of symbols (there is a key and map at the beginning of the book):
1. A ‘How Common’ indicator – how likely you are to find this ant in the relevant habitats.
2. Habitat slugs borrowed from iSpot – you might recognize these ... they are partly based on the actual habitats recorded on iSpot.
3. Distribution. There is insufficient info for traditional distribution maps, so I have put the Provinces where the species have been recorded (on iSpot and elsewhere) in green, and/or the relevant Southern African countries in black. Key and map at the beginning of the book.
4. When the ants are likely to be seen – day, night, cloudy weather or evening and dawn.
5. A little ‘Actual Size’ silhouette that might be of use to some.

Any comments on the kind of info provided will be very welcome!


Bothroponera by Flippie

4. Photographers: who is on board

I want to thank the following who have agreed to let me use their great photos in the book. You’ll all be acknowledged, even in the unlikely event that I don’t actually use your pics. Between you you have amassed a valuable archive, and I think it would be impossible to produce a book of this nature without this kind of cooperation – who has the resources to stamp around the subcontinent not only photographing so many different ants, but finding them in the first place?
I also want to say a special word about Philip Herbst. Not only did Flippie generously allow his pics to be used, he also agreed to photograph specimens that I collected for him – many of them ants for which no good pics were available before. His standards are meticulous and his photos will turn a mundane field guide into something special.

Alex Dreyer, Alexander Rebelo, Andrew Hankey, Andrew Deacon, Betsie Milne, Brian du Preez, Caroline Voget, Charles Stirton, Chris Browne, Christine Sydes, Colin Ralston, Detlef Schnabel, Duncan Butchart, Eugene Marinus, Irene Vermeulen, Johan Pretorius, Joseph Heymans, Kate Braun, Lara Wootton, Lee Jones, Lynette Rudman, Magda Botha, Marian Oliver, Mostert Kriek, Nicola van Berkel, Peter Webb, Philip Herbst, Riana & Mike Bate, Richard Adcock, Ricky Taylor, Robert Taylor, Ryan van Huyssteen, Sally Adam, Sue Marsden, Tony Rebelo, Will van Niekerk, Wynand Uys, Jeffrey Groenewald, Liz Popich, Ludwig Eksteen, Marion Maclean, 


Crematogaster by Wynand Uys
  
5. Can you help me find these iSpotters? 

Email addresses needed, if possible – could you send them to me at peter@slingsby.capetown . There are a few pics that I would really like to use as they are the best available for certain species:–

Shaun Swanepoel, Tom Stewart

6. Can you help find pictures of these ants?

Here’s a list of 13 ant species that I need photos for – or else I might have to try to draw them. As a drawing can take up to a week that’s rather a hectic task. I am trying to include a pic of at least one species per genus, but if I can’t, well, some of the more obscure will simply not be illustrated. 




Anochetus levaillanti (Small dark trapjaw ant) all provinces except KZN, plus Namibia and Zimbabwe),

Cerapachys arnoldi (small relative of Dorylus) Western, Eastern Cape

Diplomorium longipenne rare small ant from Eastern Cape strandveld

Discothyrea poweri, Probolomyrmex filiformis, Proceratium arnoldi -- the only reps from the Proceratiinae subfamily on my list, from Western, Eastern, Northern Cape; KZN; and Zim [all small and not very noticeable]

Hypoponera punctatissima, Hypoponera eduardi (Crypt ants) -- invasive small ponerines found in KZN, Eastern & Western Cape, Botswana and Zim

Leptogenys attenuata, Leptogenys capensis, Leptogenys peringueyi -- fairly common largish rajor-jaw ponerines found in KZN, Wesern and Eastern Cape and Zim

Ophthalmopone hottentota -- large ponerine with big eyes, Klein Karoo, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape

Trichomyrmex destructor -- dangerous invader, used to be a Monomorium, so far has been found in KZN in Durban and Richard's Bay


Go to  Ant Book Blog #2

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post. I will post new info from time to time, and keep you up to speed on the book’s progress.

All the best

Peter Slingsby