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Natural World

  • Season 36
  • 8 episodes
  • Nature
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Episode 8: Attenborough and the Empire of the Ants

Summary

David Attenborough tells the story of two physically identical species of ant that live in the same area in the foothills of the Swiss Alps, but have two very different strategies to survive the harsh environment.

Review

The title sounds like a 1950s B-movie but this is a rare treat from 2017 - an eye-opening journey into an ant “supercolony”.

In the Jura mountains between France and Switzerland, some wood ant nests have stopped fighting each other for territory. Instead, they coexist in harmony.

David Attenborough talks us through the rules and rhythms of their elaborate society and the film-makers deliver scene after scene that make you gape in astonishment.

The ants, we learn, farm other species for food, create their own medicine (from tree resin) and have central heating to see them through the winter.

There are creepy sequences, too, of course, such as the ants hunting down a wolf spider or their extraordinary mating process, but you may end up with more ant empathy than you’d expect.

Attenborough is clearly an admirer: “Could it be”, he wonders, “that peace is the winning strategy?”

How to watch

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Details

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Credits

Cast

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NarratorDavid Attenborough

Crew

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DirectorMartin Dohrn
DirectorJoe Loncrane
EditorAndi Campbell-Waite
Executive producerIvo Filatsch
WriterMartin Dohrn
WriterJoe Loncrane

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