Integrated Search Menu

Bert Hoelldobler

Profile photo
University Professor, Regents' Professor and Robert A. Johnson Chair in Social Insect Research
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 4501
Regents Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 4501
Regents Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 4501
Regents Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 4501

Bert Hölldobler is a behavioral biologist who investigates how insect societies are organized. He and his research team explore the behavioral mechanisms that underlie communication and division of labor systems in ant societies. They also investigate how separate ant colonies communicate with one another during territorial interactions and they explore how the complex multimodal communication codes in ant societies have been broken by a variety of solitary insects, which live as parasites inside ant colonies. This multi-faceted research has resulted in many new discoveries about multimodal communication and orientation behavior in animals, the dynamics of social structures and the evolution of animal societies.

Hölldobler also co-authored “The Ants” and "The Superorganism" with Edward O. Wilson. These volumes explore the diversity of social organizations in ants and what makes them ecological so successful and how insect societies can be viewed as superorganisms and what this implies for the theory of social evolution. He received a Pulitizer Prize in 1991 (with E.O. Wilson) for "The Ants."

Hölldobler is University Professor of Life Sciences, Regents and Foundation Professor in the School of Life Sciences. 

  • 1947-1956: Gymnasium Marktbreit (W-Germany)
  • 1956: Abitur
  • 1956-1962: University of Würzburg (W-Germany) Staatsexamen
  • 1962-1965: Research for Dissertation at the University of Würzburg
  • 1965: Degree Dr. rer.nat.
  • 1969: Habilitation at the University of Frankfurt (W-Germany) Degree: Privatdozent (Dr. habil.)
  • 1973: honorary MA, Harvard University
To Fight or Not to Fight?
Research Interests: 

Behavioral physiology and ecology, sociobiology, biology of social insects, chemical ecology and evolutionary biology. 


Articles 325 - examples below

  • Bert Hölldobler and E.O. Wilson, The Superorganism, W.W. Norton, New York 2008
  • Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson, THE ANTS, Harvard University Press, (Cambridge MA, London UK), 1990, pp 732
  • Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson, JOURNEY TO THE ANTS, Harvard University Press, (Cambridge MA, London UK), 1994, pp 228 ( this book appeared in 13 languages)
  • R.Wirth, H. Herz, R. Reyel, W. Beyschlag, B. Hölldobler, HERBIVORY IN LEAF-CUTTING ANTS, Springer Verlag (Heidelberg, London, New York, Tokio), 2003, pp 230
  • Adrian Smith, Berthold Hoelldobler, Juergen Liebig. Hydrocarbon Signals Explain the Pattern of Worker and Egg Policing in the Ant Aphaenogaster cockerelli. Journal of Chemical Ecology (2008).



  • Hölldobler, B. and M. Lindauer, (ed.):
  • Experimental Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, Fischer-Verlag, Stuttgart and Sinauer Assoc. Publ., Sunderland, Mass., 1985
  • Hölldobler, B. and E.O. Wilson: THE ANTS
  • Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, and Springer-Verlag Heidelberg-Berlin, 1990
  • Hölldobler, B. and E.O. Wilson: Journey to the Ants Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Translated into 13 languages)
  • Wirth, R., Herz, H., Ryel, R.J., Beyschlag, W., Hölldobler, B.: Herbivory of Leaf-Cutting Ants, Springer-Verlag 2003
  • Hölldobler, B. and E.O.Wilson: The SUPERORGANISM W.W.Norton New York, London 2008
  • Hölldobler, B. and E.O. Wilson: The Leafcutter Ants: Civilization by Instinct. W.W. Norton, New York, London 2011
  • Hölldobler, B. und E. O. Wilson: Auf den Spuren der Ameisen:
  • Die Entdeckung einer faszinierenden Welt. Spektrum-Springer- Verlag, Heidelberg, 2013; (3rd edition 2015). 
  • Messenger-Lecturer, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY., 1976
  • Keynote Lecturer at Symposium for International Prize for Biology to Peter Raven, Government of Japan, Kyoto, 1986
  • Nils von Hofsten-Lecturer: University of Uppsala, 1992
  • Bernhard Rensch-Lecturer: University of Münster, 1995
  • Johannes Müller-Lecturer: Free University of Berlin, 1995
  • Michael Perkins-Lecturer: Cambridge University, 1996
  • Charles Michener-Lecturer: University of Kansas, 1997
  • King-Solomon-Lecturer: Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1997
  • Ford-Lecturer: University of Minnesota, 1998
  • Peter Hemmerich-Lecturer, University of Konstanz, 1999
  • Tinbergen-Lecturer, Assoc. for the Study of Animal Behaviour, London, 1999
  • "Superspeaker" 2000, elected by the graduate students of Duke University, N.C. USA
  • Johannes Gutenberg Stiftungsprofessor, University of Mainz, Germany, 2001
  • Andrew D. White Professor at Large, Cornell University, 2002 - 2008
  • Givaudan-Lecturer at the 25th AChem S –meeting 2003 Santschi-Lecturer, University of Zürich, 2003
  • Distinguished Lecturer, Vanderbilt University, 2003
  • John Wesley Powell Memorial Lecture, Southwestern Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2005
  • Keynote Lecturer, American Animal Behavior Society, 2009 Alfred M. Boyce Lecturer, University of California, Riverside, 2010
  • Keynote Lecturer, International Idea Festival, Kentucky, 2010 Graduate Student Elected Lecturer, University of California, Irvine, 2010
  • Graduate Student Elected Lecturer, Rockefeller University, New York, 2010
  • Graduate Student and Postdoc Elected speaker Janelia Farm, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 2011
  • Keynote Lecturer at International Conference Chemical Ecology, Vancouver 2011
  • Graduate Student Elected Lecturer, Washington State University, 2012
  • Graduate Student Elected Lecturer, Vanderbilt University, 2013
  • Charles Michener Lecturer, University of Kansas, 2013
  • Graduate Student Elected Lecturer, Rutgers University, 2014
  • Distinguished Guest Lecturer, Brandeis University, 2014
  • Numerous other guest lectures, keynote lectures, plenary talks 
Honors / Awards: 
  • John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (1980)
  • USA-Senior Scientist Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (1987)
  • Gottfried-Wilhelm-Leibniz-Prize of the German Science Foundation (1990)
  • R.R.Hawkins-Prize of the Association of American Publishers for the Most Outstanding Professional Reference or Scholarly Work 1990 for the book THE ANTS (with E.O. Wilson) Pulitzer-Prize 1991 for non-fiction writing for the book THE ANTS (with E.O. Wilson)
  • Short-listed Rhône-Poulenc-Prize for the book Journey to the Ants, 1995 (with E.O. Wilson)
  • Phi Beta Kappa-Prize for the book Journey to the Ants, 1995 (with E.O. Wilson)
  • Science book of the year for "Ameisen" (Bild der Wissenschaft), 1995 (with E.O. Wilson)
  • Karl Ritter von Frisch Medal and Science Prize of the German Zoological Society 1996
  • Körber-Prize for the European Sciences 1996
  • Benjamin Franklin-Wilhelm v. Humboldt Prize of the German-American Academic Council 1999
  • The Ants by Bert Hölldobler and E.O. Wilson listed number 27 among the best 100 nonfiction books of the century (Modern Library List of Random House Publishers) Honorary-Doctoral-Degree (Dr.h.c.) of the University of Konstanz (Germany) 2000
  • Verdienstkreuz 1. Klasse des Verdienstordens der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (2000) (National Merit Medal of Germany)
  • Andrew D. White Professor at Large (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA) 2002-
  • Raman Chair, Indian Academy of Sciences 2003, declined Werner Heisenberg-Medal of the Alexander v. Humboldt- Foundation, 2003
  • Maximilian Medal and election to the Maximilian Order, State of Bavaria, 2003
  • Alfried Krupp Wissenschaftspreis, 2004
  • Jackson Hole Wild Life Film Festival Special Jury Award for the movie ANTS: NATURE’s SECRET POWER (with Wolfgang Thaler) 2005 
  • The book “THE SUPERORGANISM”, (also with E.O. Wilson), was chosen as the New York Times Notable Book of the Year (2008) and Library Journals Top Sci-Tech Books of the Year (2008). It was also chosen as one of the stand-out books of 2009 by the Financial Times.
  • Ernst Jünger Prize in Entomology, 2010
  • Lichtenberg Medal, Göttingen Academy of Sciences, 2010 Cothenius Medal in Gold, National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Germany, 2011
  • Roentgen Medal, University of Würzburg, 2012
  • Exemplar Award of the American Animal Behavior Society 2013
  • Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Entomology, London, UK, 2014
  • Lorenz Oken Medal of the German Society for the Advancement of Sciences and Medicine, 2016 
Professional Associations: 

Elected Member of:

  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1974)
  • Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher, Leopoldina (1975)
  • Member of the Senate of Leopoldina (1991-2002)
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (1979)
  • Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften (corresp. member 1986; o. member 1995)
  • Academia Europaea (1994)
  • Wissen- schaftliche Gesellschaft der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Univer- sität Frankfurt (1990)
  • Fellow of the American Animal Behavior Society (1992)
  • Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften (corresponding member, 1995)
  • Foreign Member of the American Philosophical Society (1997)
  • Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) (1998 - 2014)
  • Member of the National Academy of Science (USA) (2014) 

Member of:

  • Deutsche Zoologische Gesellschaft
  • International Union for the Study of Social Insects
  • Cambridge Entomological Society
  • Animal Behavior Society
  • Society for the Study of Evolution
  • Society of American Naturalists
  • International Society of Chemical Ecology
  • German Ethological Society
  • International Society for Behavioral Ecology
  • International Society for Behavioral Ecology
  • International Society of Neuroethology