When I was a child I read a book about ants – about one ant in particular, who was born in a colony, tends to one of her sisters before her nuptial flight, gets swept away from the colony is a flood, and finds herself alone. She discovers a new colony, but the ants reject her because she doesn’t have the smell of the colony. She finds a nearby abandoned tunnel and lives there, just to be near other ants. And then one day, she runs into an ant from the colony and is welcomed – living nearby for so long, she has picked up the scent of the colony. She is happy, and joins the colony where she eventually meets the queen, who it turns out is the sister she tended to just before her nuptial flight.
I learned so much about ants from that book – about their colony organisation, about the fact that workers are all female, about the existence of male and female alates who are winged and go on one nuptial flight were they mate before shedding their wings (in the case of females) or dying (in the case of males). I learned that ants recognise colony members by smell. What I learned from a children’s book was enough to make me better informed about ants than many a zoology gradate student.
I wish I had any idea what that book was or who wrote it.