Let me introduce you to señora Pseudomyrmex gracilis -- more commonly known as the elongated twig ant.
I see them quite often around the pool and the planters. Relatively large for an ant. Dark color. Always solitary. Hunting for prey. And very fast. Until today, I have never been able to photograph one.
This afternoon, I was sprawled on my bed reading The Economist. One of the virtues of self-isolation is that declaring a no-pants zone is less likely than normal to be a clause substantiating a restraining order.
Because this is Sunday, I had driven the car to church. I left it out thinking I might drive over to San Patricio to buy some sushi,
I never got around to it. It was now late enough in the day that I was unlikely to drive anywhere -- so, I decided to garage the car.
I grabbed my shorts off of the day bed, slipped them on, and went out to the car. I was pulling the car into position when I felt the first sting. On the back of my right thigh. My first instinct was that a scorpion had slipped into my shorts.
My first urge was to jump out of the car and get my shorts off as quickly as possible. But that was not going to happen. The neighbor's three small children were in the street. And we have already had enough talk of restraining orders in this essay.
Thinking that if I pressed down on whatever had stung me, I would reduce its ability to sting. I was wrong. The second sting hurt just as bad as the first. This time on my upper inner thigh. (Yeah. You are not going to get any more details on that one.)
I pulled the car in, hit the garage door closer, and jumped out of the car. My shorts were on the ground before my left foot hit the floor. I expected to see my predator on the ground. Nothing. I checked my shorts. Nothing.
When I looked on the floorboard in the car, there it was. I was wrong about it being a scorpion. It was an elongated twig ant. To get a photograph for you, I had to audobon it. But there it is.
I was not far wrong in thinking I had been stung by a scorpion. All wasps and ants evolved from a common ancestor. Not surprisingly, some ants have retained a stinger -- just like wasps. This ant is one of them.
Science provides us with some odd factoids. One of them is that the sting of this ant is almost as intense as a scorpion sting -- bad enough that people who are allergic to bee stings are advised to immediately seek medical help. I am not. And I have not.
But I still wonder how scientists gather their sting strength data. I imagine a line of undergraduates sticking bare arms into cages filled with All Things Stinging. The Torquemada Memorial Laboratory.
This Wild Kingdom episode taught me three things:
- Shake your pants before putting them on. (Of course, I have been taught that lesson several times the hard way, and I still do not shake.)
- I now know the name of those fascinating ants in my patio. I also now know that they are not content to roam outside. Two lessons in one.
- I have found a new use for Andantol -- the ointment that soothes my mosquitoes bites. After a brief icing, the Andantol helped to reduce the pain of both stings.