Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fire Ants And More

Prior to coming to Texas, when I'd hear about the ferocity of Fire Ants, I'd always think to myself, "Yeah Right! How bad can an ant be." I've amended my thinking and now have a healthy fear of all ants!!!

It seems to come, as an attack out of nowhere. You're just innocently standing around or picking something up, when you feel a sting that instantly gets your attention! I thought the little critters bite, but contact with them definitely has the feel of a sting! Sure enough, my Internet research says that Fire Ants only bite enough to get a good grip and then start stinging in a circle. They will sting beyond the duration of their poison. The sting creates a blister that itches and burns for as long as 3 weeks! Note the blister in the web of my hand. Once the blister subsides a small round scar will remain for awhile longer, as a reminder of the power of a little ant!

This is an interesting picture of Fire Ants in that they have been banded for research. Now there's an unusual job! It seems their venom has some medicinal value.

Although Fire Ants are described as red with black abdomens and about one quarter inch in size, mostly all you'll see is a swarm of red mite sized ants. My research says that an attacking Fire Ant gives-off a pheromone that calls to the others. Fire Ants are aggressive to ANY disturbance of their activity. I caught myself recently ready to flick an ant off the Hummingbird feeder, and thought it strange that it would stand-up on its back legs and reach towards my finger, when I got close to it. I then noticed the red and black body. "Excuse me, Mr. Ant." No more disrespecting an ant's space, at least not if it can get you first!!!

This is an Internet picture showing a field full of Fire Ant hills. We saw large hills like these along the roadsides in Florida. We didn't know what they were at the time other than just ants.

In hard packed ground like here in Texas, their nests won't be as obvious. I read that they like moist places, so particular caution will be needed in watered lawns, gardens, and near birdbaths. Since we're on the topic of Texas bugs again, let's just do an update of others encountered.

This is an Internet picture of a female Dobson Fly. You can tell its a female by its small pinchers. Roy and I encountered one of these on a gas pump. My research says that they are night flyers that are attracted to lights. I think I'll purchase gas for the vehicle during the daytime!

This is the male! What's with these huge bugs in Texas? Roy and I surmise that it's the endless Summer here. Final note: Dobson Flies will bite if annoyed, but are not poisonous. Of course, Roy had to test his luck and push on the back of the one we saw. Men!

Now for a sweet butterfly. I was sitting outside near dusk and had one of these flying around erratically and landing head down on the tree branch above the picnic table. This behavior is consistent with its Internet description, along with being a butterfly that feeds on tree sap, rather than flowers. This picture from the Internet has a slight difference from the butterfly I saw. Note the one dark spot ringed in gold on the fore wing.

This is the picture I took. Note the two dark round spots on the fore wing with a splotch of white in them. Both butterflies are called Hackberry Emperor Butterflies, but mine is a subspecies specific to this area! I find that kind of cool, as I had read that the Balcone Fault is a demarcation line for certain ecological systems and species distributions. It is also considered the official starting point of the western states!