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Macro photographs reveal the tiny, brutal world of ant warfare

By dpreview staff on Jul 29, 2013 at 21:25 GMT

Think ants are only interested in crashing your summer picnic? When they're not after our stray watermelon slices, it seems they're busy in engaging in ant-to-ant combat. Alex Wild's ant macro photography reveals the warring nature (and surprisingly frightening jaws) of these seemingly unassuming insects. His photos and their equally fascinating captions reveal fights over territory, conflicts between colonies and brutal take-downs that rival UFC brawls - all going on otherwise unnoticed at our feet. 

Photo by Alex Wild.
Photo by Alex Wild.
Photo by Alex Wild.

Wild's photographs reveal ants to be fearsome creatures, working together to pin down a much larger intruder on their home territory and gang up on a neighbor that wandered over from another nest. The Illinois-based biologist studies insect evolution and sees photography "as an aesthetic complement" to his research. We find his photos engrossing, and slightly squirm-inducing.

Heading to the great outdoors with a macro lens yourself? Take a look at some composition basics from photographer Erez Marom. And watch your step as you look for interesting subjects - they might just be waging a war at your feet. As always, you can share your macro photos in a gallery or write an article on the subject.

More macro advice from Erez Maron:

The what and why of wildlife macro photography
What we want in a macro shot - Detail
What we want in a macro shot - Background
What we want in a macro shot - POV and special scenes
Macro photography: Understanding magnification
Depth of Field in Macro Photography

Via: i09, Source: Alex Wild

Comments

Total comments: 39
peevee1
By peevee1 (8 months ago)

Fantastic pictures, nasty creatures.

0 upvotes
KoKo the Talking Ape
By KoKo the Talking Ape (9 months ago)

My Comodo firewall says the alexanderwild.com domain is unsafe, perhaps infected.

0 upvotes
Mike Griffin
By Mike Griffin (9 months ago)

I was on the patio a couple of years ago and I noticed some ants at my feet arranged in a circular pattern. Getting closer, a number of ants each had the leg of a larger ant in the centre. A deadly tug-o-war. They were ripping the poor ant's legs off and succeeded to get two before I could get the camera out. I wonder what the crime was to elicit such cruel punishment.

0 upvotes
ddtwenty
By ddtwenty (9 months ago)

I hope he didn't put the ants in to fight, I used to do that before.
That's no good. : (

0 upvotes
lmtfa
By lmtfa (9 months ago)

@ddtwenty. WHAT THE HECK IS YOUR PROBLEM

0 upvotes
ddtwenty
By ddtwenty (9 months ago)

I hope he didn't put the ants in to fight, I used to do that before.
That's no good. : (

0 upvotes
ddtwenty
By ddtwenty (9 months ago)

I hope he didn't put the ants in to fight, I used to do that before.
That's no good. : (

0 upvotes
ddtwenty
By ddtwenty (9 months ago)

I hope he didn't put the ants in to fight, I used to do that before.
That's no good. : (

0 upvotes
ddtwenty
By ddtwenty (9 months ago)

I hope he didn't put the ants in to fight, I used to do that before.
That's no good. : (

0 upvotes
ddtwenty
By ddtwenty (9 months ago)

I hope he didn't put the ants in to fight, I used to do that before.
That's no good. : (

0 upvotes
ddtwenty
By ddtwenty (9 months ago)

I hope he didn't put the ants in to fight, I used to do that before.
That's no good. : (

0 upvotes
Abhijith Kannankavil
By Abhijith Kannankavil (9 months ago)

brilliant work!

thanks to DPR for sharing the story.

0 upvotes
Bill Bentley
By Bill Bentley (9 months ago)

A Bug's Life - The Untold Story.

0 upvotes
APtelephoto
By APtelephoto (9 months ago)

Fabulous imagery!

One can use an iPhone for "bugs".

:)

http://www.buytelescopes.com/Gallery/ViewPhoto.aspx?g=&sg=&s=&d=&t=&p=&m=&c=47420&pid=50196

0 upvotes
NancyP
By NancyP (9 months ago)

These army ants are interesting creatures. Dr. Wild gave a talk at our local nature photography club (120 miles from his university) about ant behavior and photographic documentation. The ants follow relatively predictable paths, and he can identify where a particular behavior is likely to happen and thus stake it out for a photograph. He uses an MP-E 65 1x-5x macro lens, like most insect photographers. The lens is more convenient in the field than bellows, and can be hand-held with flash.

Go to his websites, the other one is myrmecos.net - good links to other insect researchers and photographers, as well.

2 upvotes
dgriffiths
By dgriffiths (9 months ago)

Thanks! :)

0 upvotes
InTheMist
By InTheMist (9 months ago)

Thanks for this!

The photographic stories are always appreciated, although the gear-queens like the hardware stories more :/

0 upvotes
speculatrix
By speculatrix (9 months ago)

Radiolab did a story about how argentine ants are controlling huge territories in the USA, an amazing story.
http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2012/jul/30/ants/

radiolab is one of my favourite podcasts.

0 upvotes
dgriffiths
By dgriffiths (9 months ago)

What lens/camera did you use?

0 upvotes
Pangloss
By Pangloss (9 months ago)

Does it matter? Can you still enjoy a photograph without checking the EXIF?

2 upvotes
Hugo808
By Hugo808 (9 months ago)

Suppose you want to have a go yourself, might be handy to know the sort of level of equipment required to get this sort of magnification - lens or bellows for instance...

9 upvotes
Valterj
By Valterj (9 months ago)

From the EXIF is Canon EOS 7D.

0 upvotes
dgriffiths
By dgriffiths (9 months ago)

I really like the pictures! I currently have a set of extension tubes with a Canon 28-135mm lens on a 40D... I'd love to be able to get shots like this! :)

0 upvotes
rrccad
By rrccad (9 months ago)

Nice photos!

it's all fun and games until someone totes out the can of RAID..

3 upvotes
siggo
By siggo (9 months ago)

ConanFuji...Just click on the first photo and a new window will open with loads of photos to see 8-)

Comment edited 28 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
ConanFuji
By ConanFuji (9 months ago)

DP.. How about more than just 3 photos...?

0 upvotes
Spectro
By Spectro (9 months ago)

saw some winged carpenter ants in my building and got really worried, but they died off somehow. I say die ants too.

1 upvote
KentG
By KentG (9 months ago)

They fly and mate in the air, then queens land and drop their wings and find some wood to chew into and make a nest. If they don't find a suitable nesting area in time they either die or are eaten by something else. Most ant species swarm in the late spring. That is what the mating flight of the winged males and queens is called because the rest of the colony pours out of that nest to protect them till they get airborne.

1 upvote
ptox
By ptox (9 months ago)

Really superb. He's got loads of great insect photography on his site. Everyone should take a look.

0 upvotes
Frank_BR
By Frank_BR (9 months ago)

The small ones always win. Of course, I am speaking of ants, not of pancake lenses!

1 upvote
KentG
By KentG (9 months ago)

In most ant fighting it is usually the bigger army that wins not the size of the ant. I think it was Stalin that said "quantity has a quality all its own". One examplen he notes is that army ants are the only known species that can successfully overwhelm and destroy a leafcutter ant nest. The various species of army ants, driver ants, and legionary ants of the Southern Hemisphere are at the top of the ant heirarchy when it comes to killing other species of ants. Individual ants can always be overcome by numbers.

2 upvotes
speculatrix
By speculatrix (9 months ago)

indeed. see my other post about argentine ants taking over north america.

0 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (9 months ago)

They're bigger in Texas.

2 upvotes
knize10
By knize10 (9 months ago)

Ants are so similar to humans, they just bleed less.

3 upvotes
Pangloss
By Pangloss (9 months ago)

Great macro work!

1 upvote
ManuelVilardeMacedo
By ManuelVilardeMacedo (9 months ago)

I suppose these were taken with an iPhone, right? No? Oh well...

9 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (9 months ago)

Ants don't love each other.

2 upvotes
michaelp42
By michaelp42 (9 months ago)

What Waldo said!

0 upvotes
Waldo Nell
By Waldo Nell (9 months ago)

Brilliant.

5 upvotes
Total comments: 39