"The happenings of the insect world play out mostly unnoticed by people," writes photographer and entomologist Alexander Wild. When viewed up close, the lives of ants appear quite brutish and short.
In amazing detail, Wild has photographed the territortial disputes, food battles and violence that pervade the ant world. "The worst enemies of ants are often other ants," the Illinois-based biologist explains on his website.
“When it comes to war-fighting, ant species are more similar to humans than most other animals, even primates,” ecologist Mark Moffett told Wired in 2010.
Myrmecia pilosula jack-jumper ants from neighboring nests engaged in battle. This species is best known not for its fights, though, but for the health risk its stings pose to humans. (Tower Hill, Victoria, Australia)
Ants in North America have also proven to be an enemy to humans. The red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta), which is native to South America, has invaded much of the southern U.S. and taken quite a toll. "The ants’ annual impact on the economy, environment, and quality of life in the United States totals $6 billion," notes Nautilus.
Oecophylla longinoda, the tailor ant, is fiercely territorial. Here they have pinned down a Polyrhachis intruder that has stumbled onto their tree. (St. Lucia, KZN, South Africa)
A recent study of one ant species found that when faced with tough choices, the insects are likely to make better decisions collectively. But when faced with an easier choice for a nesting site, individuals performed better than the group.
Azteca ants do not tolerate other species on their Cecropia host tree. When intruders are encountered, the Azteca patrollers work together to pin them down. Interestingly, the offending insects aren't always killed. This Camponotus was simply dragged to the edge of the plant and dropped. (Gamboa, Panama)
Azteca Cecropia ants guard their tree zealously against intruders. Working together, they surround and immobilize their opponents such as this trap-jaw ant by pinning down their appendages. (Gamboa, Panama)
Photos and captions courtesy of Alexander Wild.