Can human beings really improve our group decision making by imitating the democracy of honeybees? Are ants truly considered the highest form of insect evolution? Join Litquake and the California Academy of Sciences as they present two leading experts for a fascinating and thrilling discussion of our planet's smallest and most complex social organizations.
Moffett provides fascinating details on how ants live and how they dominate their ecosystems through strikingly human behaviors, while animal behaviorist Thomas Seeley reveals that bees have much to teach us when it comes to collective wisdom and effective decision making.
Contract photographer Mark Moffett has developed a career that combines science and photography. Although his family was not academic, encouraged by his parents he sought out biologists by the age of 12. Soon he became a field assistant on research projects across Latin America.
After entering and eventually earning his B.A. at Beloit College in Wisconsin, Moffett taught himself macrophotography to document his 1989 Harvard Ph.D. under Professor E.O. Wilson on marauder ants. His first published images were of these ants in National Geographic magazine.
Upon completing his doctorate Moffett spent two years as curator of ants at Harvard University. Still based at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, his research presently concerns insect and spider social behavior and the structure and dynamics of forest ecosystems, particularly their canopies. Recently he has been investigating canopies of the supertall coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest, for which he led (with Professor Steve Sillet of Humboldt College) the first ever ascent and study of the world's tallest tree, known as the National Geographic redwood.
In 1993 Harvard University Press published Moffett's book, The High Frontier: Exploring the Tropical Rainforest Canopy. Today his research and National Geographic photography are interspersed with writing and public lecturing about rain forests.
Thomas D. Seeley is Professor and Chairman in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University. He is a world authority on animal behavior, especially the social behavior of honey bees. At home more in the field than the laboratory, his scientific work features observational and experimental investigations of the inner workings of honey bee colonies living under natural conditions.
A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is the recipient of numerous honors for his scientific work including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Alexander von Humboldt Distinguished U.S. Scientist Award, and a Gold Medal from Apimondia for his book The Wisdom of the Hive. Currently, he is working on a new book, Swarm Intelligence in Bees.
If you thought humans were the only species with a track record of enslavement, think again. Polygerus breviceps ("slave-making ants") build their labor force by stealing the pupa of other species, says entomologist Mark Moffett.
Carpenter ant (Camponotus).(Top two) Grace Thompson from The National Aubudon Society CollectionPhoto Researchers/EB Inc., (bottom two) E.S. RossAny member of approximately 10,000 species of the social insect family Formicidae. Ants are found worldwide but are especially common in hot climates. They range from 0.1 to 1 in. (225 mm) long and are usually yellow, brown, red, or black. Ants eat both plant and animal substances; some even farm fungi for food, cultivating them in their nests, or milk aphids. Ant colonies consist of three castes (queens, males, and workers, including soldiers) interacting in a highly complex society paralleling that of the honeybees. Well-known ant species are the carpenter ants of North America, the voracious army ants of tropical America, and the stinging fire ant.
Honeybee (Apis mellifera)Ingmar HolmasenBroadly, any bee that makes honey (any insect of the tribe Apini, family Apidae); more strictly, one of the four species constituting the genus Apis. The term is usually applied to one species, the domestic honeybee (A. mellifera), also known as the European domestic bee or western honeybee. The other Apis species are confined to Asia. A. mellifera is usually about 0.5 in. (1.2 cm) long. All honeybees are social insects that live in nests or hives. They have three castes: workers (undeveloped females), queens, and drones (stingless males). See alsobeekeeping.