A Lovely Little Post on Ants

I love ants.

Ants are just so great. The absolute best. They’re cute and interesting and amazing and just so much fun to be around. Especially in the Tropics, where there are just so dang many of them.

So, so very many.

They’re helpful, too. They’re often an important, if not the most important, function of recycling nutrients in an ecosystem. Though the individuals may be tiny, their sheer numbers, organization, and hard work means they can scour a habitat for organic material to collect and break down into more basic components. It’s a remarkable process. The colony works collectively as a superorganism, with drones using antennae taps and pheremone trails to plot out forage paths in patterns so efficient, modern delivery companies are basing algorithms on them to minimize travel routes. The ants really do cover some ground, and they get everywhere.

Everywhere.

Of course, not all ants are foragers exactly. Some are farmers! I’ve mentioned leafcutter ants a few times, those stupendous little wonders who clip plant matter into compost for a fungus which they harvest as food. In Costa Rica, the majority of plant consumption is done by leafcutters, not larger herbivores, and the underground fungal gardens can create huge pockets of aerated, nutrient-rich soil once the ants move on. The species has been growing the fungus far longer than humans have been practicing agriculture, making them the world’s oldest farmers. Take that, neolithic hominids!

Not so special now, huh?

Some ants are predators, such as army ants. I’ve mentioned these a few times as well. However, they tend to feed on other insects, including large annoying wasps. That’s helpful! Should these ants invade human space, they often scour the area clear of all pests and clear out the remains before leaving. Locally, they are known as “house cleaners” since no scrap of remotely edible material escapes them.

Nothing. Nothing escapes them.

Fascinating, diligent, and useful–ants truly are amazing. It’s so great to think about all the ways they benefit our lives and our entire world. I could go on and on, enumerating their qualities all day, but today I’ll sum up my thoughts thusly:

I love ants.

A Day in the Life of a Real Naturalist

Years back, an ecolodge I worked for commissioned me to write a guest post for their blog. It was supposed to be a “Day in the Life of a Naturalist” post, and someone had heard that I had my own personal blog going at the time. However, the boss clearly had no idea of the tone of said personal blog and its, shall we say, irreverence. The piece I wrote was true to form and, while accurate, didn’t really fit with the professional, family-friendly official page. It was rather off-brand. So the Director himself decided it was in need of much re-writing, a task he did on his own.

And I didn’t even mention ants.

The resulting post wasn’t so much re-written as ghost-written. Gone was the spite and sarcasm. Gone were the gory details. Gone was the actual day in the actual life of an actual naturalist. In its place was a squeaky-clean bit of G-rated ecotour propaganda. I allowed it to be posted only with my name removed, and decided to post my original work on my own blog.

But then I remembered that I was under contract, and that technically what I had written belonged to the organization. Plus, I was under a kind of NDA and some details pertained to work. Plus, I was trying to be professional, and didn’t want my employer to think I was a dick.

Well I just learned that that place is no longer in business so they can’t do squat! Below is my original post, along with their edits in bold.

My day begins at 5am dawn when the monkeys wake me up by dropping guavas on my roof. My first coherent thought is deciding whether or not to go outside and yell at them to imagine all the animals I’m going to see today. Then I shake the spiders out of put on my boots and head to the dining hall where I fill myself with as much rice, beans, and strong coffee as is medically possible eat breakfast and drink a cup of coffee. This is the jungle and I can’t waste daylight.

Monkeys are awful little tree gremlins interesting creatures.

The first tour of the day is usually birdwatching. After passing out binoculars, and helping the one or two chuckleheads who try to use them backwards, we head out to see what’s around. Depending on the year, we can get all sorts of migrants and visitors from the Northern Hemisphere flying in and making a lot of noise. Sometimes we see migratory birds too. The campus is great place for birding, with plenty of open areas, forested habitat, flowers, fruit, and tall trees. Sometimes we visit a ledge overlooking the river with a great view of the valley, which also happens to be my favorite spot to pee a very relaxing place.

If nothing is scheduled, I like to head over to the campus farm to lend a hand. Agriculture in the Tropics is a never-ending rewarding job, as the growing season is year-round. The food goes right from the dirt to the kitchen. Lunch is typical Costa Rican food, generally organic rice, local beans, homegrown veggies, and a meat dish with fresh fruit. Along with, of course, more coffee.

Ok, he was trying to plug the farm here. I get that.

Afternoons are for more activities. If we’re in luck, we’re hosting a researcher, and they always need someone to play Tonto an experienced guide. Or Sherpa a helpful assistant. Throughout my time here, I’ve assisted with forestry techs, bat catchers scientists, herpers biologists who study reptiles and amphibians, butterfly geeks lepidopterists, and camera trap nerds specialists. Onsite, we have our own research on seed dispersal, reforestation, mycology, and a poor resident moth intern who stays up all night counting bugs an ongoing moth survey.

Throughout the day, I like to make myself available to guests to tell stories, point out animals, and answer their questions. I hear all sorts of things. “What was that animal we saw that looked like a large guinea pig?” Probably an agouti. “We heard a strange call last night.” This is where I start making animal sounds until they hear the right one help them find out what it was. “Is it true that there’s a bug that lays its eggs in your brain?” Um, not sure about that one. No, but the Director once got bit by a botfly.

What he hell, man? That isn’t even MY anecdote.

Dinner is similar to lunch, and afterward is my favorite activity: night hike. A few hours after sunset, I pass out flashlights, slap on some bugspray, and hit the trails with a group of wary excited guests in tow. Nighttime is when the jungle really comes alive. We can count on seeing all sorts of critters nocturnal wildlife, from massive insects, ghostly owls, and absolute hordes of frogs. If we’re lucky, we might even see a kinkajou which is a Costa Rican mammal that looks like a large squirrel. We often rarely see snakes.

Exhausted, delighted, and very sweaty, everyone heads back to the cabins to dream of weird animals they’ve never seen before. It’s been another day in the life of a naturalist.

So You Don’t Want to Be a Naturalist Anymore

So you’ve decided to change careers. The life of a naturalist just isn’t for you. Maybe you’re tired of being constantly bug-bitten and mammal-mauled. Maybe the apocalyptic scale of climate change has you despairing for environmental work. Maybe you’d like to for once in your life make some actual money.

I’m not giving up my dream just yet. But as a naturalist who has, at times, had to support my career with jobs outside my field, I thought I’d offer this self-help guide to readjusting back into normal, civilized, adult life. Here goes.

I know it sounds crazy, but there exists a job without ants.

Rewrite Your Resume

If you have a science background, you’ve been taught to prepare your resume/CV a certain way. To just pack that baby with every study, research project, lab activity, and field gig you were remotely a part of, and describe each one with as technical of wording as possible. Extra points for being as taxonomically specific as possible. Double points for including Latin words that barely qualify as English.

Well now you’re applying for a normal job and guess what? Not only does no-one give a crap about that, they will barely understand it. Some poor recruiting manager doesn’t want to have to scan through a list of “research experiences” involving animals they’ve never heard of. Especially if the work was unpaid and, let’s be honest, it was unpaid wasn’t it?

For example, I recently applied to an ordinary job for the season. I edited down my Research section greatly, and changed things like “conducted a species assemblage of amphibians across a geographic gradient” to “Studied frogs in the jungle.” Much more palatable. “Comparison of interspecific sexual and territorial behavior of damselfies” became “Made horny bugs fight each other. For science.” And anything involving the collection of feces…yeah, I removed that entirely. That sure made the document shorter.

Man, not even spellcheck knows what a damselfly is

Change Your Appearance

Did you know there are other colors for clothing besides green, brown, grey, and other drab earth tones? Did you know that some people buy clothing with appearance in mind, not function? That there are other factors to take into account other than a fabric’s ability to resist mold, scratches, and animal blood?

Strange as it seems, you may find yourself in a job where your appearance matters. You may be expected to meet something called “professional standards” of dress, grooming, and general hygiene. You will not be allowed to wear clothes that are stained or torn, even if they function just fine. You will be expected to shave and cut your hair, despite your protests that it will all grow back anyway.

It’s rough, but think of it as an adaptation. Civil camouflage. Clothes shopping is just gathering materials. Now go out and get yourself a makeover. Get dressed. Wear perfume. Put on makeup. Cut your hair. Do your nails. Take a bath, you dirty hippy.

Stop Telling Stories, Seriously Just Shut Up Because No One Believes You

Another personal anecdote: a while back on a construction gig, a coworker noticed the scars on my hand. He asked where they came from. I told him, “monkeys.” That guy never spoke to me again.

Yes, a monkey. And I still see his face in my dreams…

It’s a naturalist thing. Fieldwork talk. Research station stories. We all do it, all trying to share and impress and one-up. We talk about the places we’ve been. The adventures we’ve had. The animals we’ve seen, studied, or fought. The tales border on the ludicrous and push the limits of believability because that’s the point.

But back here in the real world? That junk is straight out of animal planet. Fantasy that belongs on television. Best case: people will think you’re full of shit. Worse case: they will think you’re insane. Most likely: a bit of both. So learn from my mistakes, mistakes I keep making over and over wherever I go, and curb that kind of behavior.

Bottom line: what happens in the jungle stays in the jungle. Or at least let it out carefully, gradually, bit by bit over time.

Also, maybe don’t talk about snakes so much. Can’t hurt.

The Curse

As a funny man once said, “I’m not superstitious, but I’m a little stitious.” I’m a skeptic with an open mind. Black cats don’t bother me unless they’re clawing at my leg for attention. I don’t carry good luck charms unless I think they look cool and I would probably carry them anyway. I don’t believe in astrology unless I’m trying to get laid. After all, I’m a scientist at heart, trained to think rationally and act pragmatically.

But I have to admit, after significant observation and data analysis, that I am under some kind of curse: Animal trouble follows me wherever I go.

And for once, I’m not just talking about the ants.

No, this is not due to my line of work. Even among biologists, my number of violent, dramatic, or otherwise unusual animal encounters is an outlier. For almost every job I’ve held. In nearly every place I lived.

My first longterm Costa Rica gig, who had the army ants infest his cabin, and his alone? This guy. That forestry job in Puerto Rico? We were told that invasive mongoose were a shy and rarely encountered species, and not a realistic threat even though they occasionally carried rabies. Yet who got bitten by a rabid mongoose, right outside the dorms, no less? Read my post about that. And the monkey house? Sure, we all had our share of monkey attacks, and monkeys throwing things at us, and monkeys peeing on us, but who had a opossum crawl across his face and fuck-no-o’clock in the morning while sleeping in his own goddam bed?

I have a post about that too, of course.

It sure seems like this is a pattern. Houses where I live see an uptick of pest activity when I move in. Farms where I work get more wildlife trouble. And the animal rescue center? Oh, sweet lord. The staff commented that he’d never seen so many snakes in so little time. Monkeys raided the kitchen. The mosquitos were unusually bad. An dang ocelot moved in and started harassing the sanctuary animals.

I’m forced to confront the “why” and seek solutions. Is this karmic justice for my past as a tracker and hunter? Or my past as a wildlife biologist? Or against my general antagonistic attitude to animals who disrespect me? Have I offended some self-righteous nature god?

Ok, so, yeah, I have spent a lot of time terrorizing animals in the name of science.

Either way, I should probably come with a warning label. After all, some of the places I’ve worked (zoos, large animals farms, vet clinics come to mind), the stakes were rather high concerning potential animal trouble. I suppose I should be thankful things weren’t worse. But regardless, I might want to cool it and seek some kind of understanding with the animal kingdom in general to prevent further catastrophe.

No joke, someone once tried an exorcism after the 3rd or 4th snake incident.

I’m going to be running a legitimate guiding outfit soon. I can’t have my past coming back to haunt me in the form of rampaging wildlife and other such close-encounters. Actually, that might be a selling point. I’ll think on this.

Unemployed, in a Green Land

The reason I’ve been so quiet on this blog is that over the past few weeks I’ve been too busy living in an isolated off-the-grid spot in the rainforest, killing ants, taking pictures of animals, trying to stay dry, and stuffing my face with delicious fruit. But the surprise twist? I’m not in Costa Rica.

I’m in Washington.

Yes, after a long series of flights and layovers, I was finally able to return home and peel off a mask that had gotten pretty funky by that point. Luckily, I was able to settle into a place tucked away in the forest for quarantine, which also made culture shock transition a little easier. And the weather was pretty good too–nothing like the Pacific Northwest in Summer. So I thought I was in a place where I could begin a new chapter in life, try to track down a new career, and close the book on Costa Rica for now. And enjoy all the things I had been missing.

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No toucans, but we’ve got bald eagles.

And enjoy them I did. I think my first meal back was bread. Just bread. I had plans to make a sandwich, but once I had my hands on a loaf of real chewy gluten with some sort of French name I took a bite right out of it and didn’t stop until I was down to crumbs. This time of year is also blackberry season, which is about the one kind of fruit that really doesn’t grow well in the Tropics. First chance I got, I reenacted my childhood and picked until my hands were stained purple. And then the beer. My god, the beer. Costa Rica, I love you, but I’ll be willing to commit when you have a dedicated microbrew scene.

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See? Bald eagle.

Yet on my first morning I went outside with a cup of coffee and watched some deer nibble the grass. White-tailed deer, no less, the exact same species we had back in Manuel Antonio. I munched on fresh fruit that had been picked in the backyard (raspberries, not mangoes, but still). It was surprisingly hot and sunny, although lush. Most of this environment is rainforest, after all. Temperate rainforest. So I joked to myself about never leaving at all.

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I wasn’t kidding when I said I literally have to chase these things out of my driveway. Crazy to think this is the national animal of Costa Rica.

But then the ants began.

Apparently, the place I’m staying has had an ant problem. That is, previous tenants have complained about a few ants in the kitchen and bathroom. But now I was here. With my vendetta. My nemesis. They got inside my bags. My clothes. The second night I woke up covered with them. Now it’s war.

Perhaps the jungle is a place of mind. You can never leave. Maybe I really am cursed. Maybe this won’t be quite the respite I was hoping for. Maybe I’m not ready for a break after all.

Regardless, I’ll most likely be blogging less but may chime in with an update or flashback story when I have good photos. For now, I’ve got to go bring down some jungle justice on a bunch of pansy-abdomen Washingtonian ants. At least this time there are no monkeys.

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Also I’m almost out of data on my free WordPress account. I really do have too many pictures of frogs.

What I Will Not Miss

With only a few weeks left here, my days are mostly consumed with packing, handing off my work to others, and soaking in as much of this place as I can. It’s bittersweet. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that goodbyes aren’t final, but I’m afraid it will be quite a while until I can return.

I’m going to keep on blogging when I can and probably a little into my return to the States, spreading out the various topics and photos I have on backlog. But today something came to me when I while I was chatting with someone from back home. We were discussing travel plans and things I was looking forward to, and I realized that nothing I was saying made any sense. That is, the concerns I was voicing were an utter world apart from what they dealt with, and it was a good illustration of my mental state from living in this place so long.

So I’ve compiled here a brief list of ways in which my mind has been changed from jungle life.

  1. I See Snakes Everywhere

Everywhere. On the sides of roads. In corners. Under furniture. Even if I don’t see them, I know they’re there. Except they’re usually not. But my senses have become so fine-tuned to stay vigilant for snakes that I’ve become hyperaware. Or maybe paranoid. I don’t like to sit on a couch with my feet dangling out because I will convince myself that there is a snake underneath, ready to bite my ankles. Toilets are even worse. The other day I looked up and knew, knew, there was a snake in the rafters, and even ID’ed it to a Bothriechis palm viper, possibly a rare subspecies not usually found in this area, and I was practically writing the account in my head when I realized it was just a knotted rope.

Sometimes it’s a pattern. Certain tiled floors, for example, set me off. Or braided fabrics. It’s like a new version of trypophobia. The last time I was allowed in town I was standing in line at a store and the woman in front of me had sandals on with snakeskin pattern straps. I practically jumped a mile. They must have thought I was a freak. But maybe because I was staring at her feet for a while afterward.

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I still maintained a proper social distance, though.

 

  1. I Don’t Sip Cold Drinks Anymore

I guzzle them. Why? Because cold drinks don’t last. Your smoothie will become juice and your beer will skunk within minutes. You gotta enjoy them while they last. Speaking of beer, I’m going to have to pace myself when I get back to a place where beer is darker and has more than a trace of alcohol.

  1. My Anxiety Dreams Are Bonkers

So most people have that recurring dream where they’re at school without clothes? I have dreams where I’m in the jungle without shoes. And I’m usually standing in ants. Then I wake up in a cold sweat screaming about vile insects. Oh, I also usually wake up in ants, too. I’m really not going to miss ants. I think that goes without saying.

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Can you see the ants? Neither can I, but I can sure as hell feel them.

  1. My Basic Survival Instinct is Not to Stay Warm, But to Stay Dry

This is reflected in everything. I grew up in Washington. It doesn’t get too cold there, but enough that homes are built and clothes are worn with the intention of maintaining heat. You generally wear shoes indoors. Keep a furnace running, or a wood stove. “Room temperature” generally means significantly colder than you are.

Here, it is different. The first thing I do when I get home is take off my shoes and socks and dry my feet. Get down in there between the toes. Foot rot strikes quickly, even when it isn’t raining. My entire life is based around air flow, from the storage of my clothes to the arrangement of my furniture. My ultimate luxury is a big, wide bed where I can spread out like a starfish. I require a fan. And speaking of clothes…

  1. I Shop with Very Specific Specs in Mind

My clothes have to be light, but not too light or mold eats right through them. My rain gear has to be long, but not heavy. I don’t count on electronics to last. I like high-end laptops, but if I get a custom build I usually end up on the phone with someone about which model does best in humidity. It’s not exactly a spec that’s listed in the manual. And I buy cheap phones because they just don’t last that long. I’ve gone through two in less than two years. The point is, I represent a very niche market, and it’s hard to find things that are functional and durable for this climate. REI doesn’t exactly have a Tropical market yet.

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Yet.

And the list goes on. I will forever shake out my shoes on reflex before putting them on because you never know with wayward scorpions. Keep my knives sharp and oiled and close at hand because there is always vegetation to cut back and rust will ruin a good blade. Store electronics in a bag with silica gel to get another month or two of use out of them. Just shrug when I see a spider in the room, because of course there’s a spider in the room.

I’ll go on a few more hikes and night walks to get in some good content before I leave. I may have been here so long it’s driven me near insane, but I don’t want to take this place for granted.

A Little Revenge on Ants

I hate ants. You know I hate ants. Everyone who has ever met me knows I hate ants. So how have I gone this long without talking about antlions?

This came to me the other day when a coworker approached me as I was crouched over a patch of sand, dry under the cover of an awning. I had a look of wicked glee on my face. He asked me what I was doing, and I pointed to several small, perfectly conical pits, each about the diameter of a silver dollar. “I’m feeding ants to antlions.”

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Y’know. As one does.

“Antlions? Isn’t that a monster from a video game?”

I logged that topic away for future conversation. “Yes,” I told him. But I was confused. Didn’t he play with these as a kid?

He had not. No one I have ever spoken to has. Yet somehow that information keeps surprising me. So buckle up: you’re about to hear about my one opportunity to give ants their comeuppance.

Antlions are the larval stage of Mermeleontidae, a Family of lacewings. Some people call them “doodlebugs.” The adults look kind of like little dragonflies or dobsonflies. They fly around at night with relatively weak wings and eat mostly pollen and are nothing special. But the larvae are something else—small, armored, armed, and fierce. They look like a lentil with a few bristly little legs, but on the business end is a massive pair of sickle-shaped jaws, full of poisonous grooves and able to snap shut like a bear trap.

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They’re not much to look at, and you can’t usually see them. Which is kind of the point.

The larvae are ambush predators and dig sand traps. Look anywhere dry, under cover, with a layer of soft sand. You’ll see the pits. The antlion makes a long, spiral excavation, continuously tossing out jawfuls of sand, until it has a stable pit that collapses at the slightest touch. Then it buries itself at the bottom, spreads its mandibles wide, and waits. Sometimes for years.

Should an ant stumble in (or, hypothetically, get tipped in by a vengeful human), it slides down the steep sides of the pit. Sometimes it scurries for its life, “treadmilling” on the loose substrate but it is no use. Finally, it ends up at the bottom whereupon a pair of enormous jaws erupt from the ground and snap shut in a flurry of dust, terror, and shattered chitin. Arthropoid legs flail and antenna twitch as the doomed ant fights for its life but is, eventually, pulled beneath the sand, never to emerge.

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Ha ha ha! Ah-HA ha ha!

Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! Die, you filth! Death to all ants! Into the abyss! To the depths! Meet your fate at the bottom of the pit of doom! Whenever I see antlion pits I immediately look for ants to drop in. One time I caught a mosquito between my fingertips and sent it down. It was the greatest moment of my life.

Fuck ants.

 

A Little on Ants (and Haunted Houses)

To quote a great comedian, “I’m not superstitious, but I’m a little ‘stitious.” But more importantly, I’m well aware and often fascinated by the effect that superstition has on other people. On top of that, I love to work a crowd. I like to get people in touch with their emotions and instincts. And sometimes I like to freak people out. Which brings me to night walks.

Like any good naturalist, night walks are my bread and butter. My after dark tours are designed to be a good mix of excitement, curiosity, wonder, fear, perverse fascination, and horror. Depending on the crowd. But my most recent one ended up focusing more on those latter three. Partially because I was deliberately trying to scare the hell out of a group of rowdy volunteers. But also because I didn’t need to be deliberate: we were walking past an old decayed house in the middle of the forest that local legend says was the scene of a mass murder. Yes, an honest-to-god jungle haunted house.

So I kept my mouth shut and let imaginations run wild as I led them around vine-covered walls and mossy collapsed roof. Murder or no, the atmosphere was pretty sinister, as if the house was being swallowed by the jungle. I pointed out a couple of large wandering spiders and toxic frogs, but then spotted something that made my blood freeze and my stomach churn.

It was my old nemesis: army ants.

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Oh no.

And not just army ants, but an army ant bivouac.

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Oh, hell no.

I don’t scare easily. And I have a pretty high tolerance for horror. But these things are literally from my nightmares. I still haven’t quite gotten over that time they invaded my cabin back in 2015. Or that time they raided my bed at night. It’s just—

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Ahh! Kill them all!

Oh god, all those legs! And it didn’t help that most of them were young, a new generation freshly ecclosed, still yellow-headed and pink-bodied. Almost fleshy-looking.

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Good luck sleeping tonight.

The swarm had set up between some fallen pieces of corrugated metal, and was roughly the size and shape of a half-deflated beach ball. They scattered when I shone my light on them, revealing a bounty of eggs, grubs, and still-cocooned young pupae. The soldiers flexed their fishhook mandibles and blindly tasted the air for us, the interlopers, and I tried to explain what was going on while also trying to get people away while also trying not to dry heave. In the confusion I was pushed into a sinkhole and ended up getting several dozen crawl up my pants before I got my leg out.

We were all pretty rattled after that. Me most of all. Not because of the spirits of jungle murder victims, but because of tiny insects. Tiny insects with overwhelming numbers, fanatical aggression, and wriggling, biting…

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Yeah. Might’ve bitten off more than I could chew here.

Night hike? Total success. But still, fuck ants.

Another Year Down (Almost)

I woke up this morning and I was covered in termites.

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It’s going to be one of those posts.

I smelled them first–a strong, piney smell. It comes from the terpintenoids in the wood they eat. Makes them taste minty, too. But then I started to feel the little legs in my sheets and in my hair and responded my usual way–freaking the hell out. Then getting ahold of myself and tracking down the columns of invading insects to the source.

We’ve been getting a lot of intense rainstorms recently, unusual for this time of year. The last one must have flushed the termites out of their burrow and sent them scurrying for new cover. Either that or they’d decided to snack on the wood paneling of our building. Either way, I was able to use a little bit of spot-applied repellent to disrupt the columns and chase them out. Termites have a hive structure very similar to ants, although they are more closely related to cockroaches and mantises.

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So…fuck cockroaches? Yeah, that sounds about right.

But it’s been a while since that kind of thing has happened, and after I’d calmed down I reminded myself of that fact. After all, one year ago I was in that crappy house with opossums climbing over me and interrupting my nightmares of psychotic monkeys. Looking back, I’d say I have it pretty good now. I mean, yes, there are still psychotic monkeys, but they’re in cages and I go home to my own room every night. A few termites aren’t so bad.

This is, by far, the longest stretch of time I have spent in Costa Rica–or anywhere abroad, for that matter–and it has me considering many things. The choices that brought me here. The successes and mistakes. The animals I’ve terrorized and have been terrorized by in turn.

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Pictured: both.

This will also be the first Christmas I’ve ever spent alone, away from home and family. Instead, I’ll be celebrating here with coworkers and neighbors and the few friends I’ve made along the way. Many of whom are in a similar place in life, and share my views on ants.

I plan to be here a while yet, and no amount of ants, crazy monkeys, or crazy monkey people can keep me away. This is were I am most happy, and this blog is a testament to that. Thanks for reading.

Merry Christmas everyone, from a Happy Place in the jungle.

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A Post on Puppies and Kittens and Just Joking of Course This is About Ants

You all saw this coming, didn’t you? Everybody knows I hate ants so I’ll just skip to the point: Bullet Ants will fuck. You. Up.

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This. You. Fuck up.

What, you thought the name was a joke? Well, maybe more of a misreprensentation. After all, the one person I know who got stung by one described it more as being “stabbed over and over again for 12 hours.” Stabbed, not shot. Oh, thanks for clearing that up, you poor bastard. I’m sure we’ll all appreciate that distinction. But just to be clear, let’s find a gunshot victim and subject them to bullet ants. Y’know. For science.

The name, as you’ve probably figured, refers to the sting, which is generally considered to be the most painful non-lethal sting of any animal anywhere. And I’m sure it tops some of the lethal lists, too. (at what point is “really wanting to die” considered lethal?) The ant itself is pretty distinct–massive and shiny black with large mandibles that it uses to latch on while hammering away with its stinger. But most people don’t notice this little detail a they’re too busy screaming in agony.

Fortunately, the ants aren’t too numerous aggressive. They aren’t big into human spaces and don’t go out of their way to sting. It might have something to do with the fact that they’re some bad motherfuckers and know it. Nothing wants to mess with bullet ants, so they don’t act defensive. They usually forage alone not far from their colony, usually built into the roots of a tree or fallen log. If you see them, though, avoid the area. They will defend their nest.

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I know they’re hard to see but like hell was I going to get closer for a better shot.

Various field guides, textbook authors, and naturalist yahoos on YouTube have all given accounts of the sting to a curious or sadistic audience, either first- or secondhand. All of them have no doubt regretted it. That guy I mentioned earlier? He allowed an ant to bite him out of perverse curiosity. Then he spent the next night keeping the entire camp awake with his moans, and drank all our rum. I felt–and still feel–zero sympathy.

My thoughts on these daredevils? Good for them. My advice for you? Learn from them. Enough jackasses and experts alike have undergone this to justify anymore similar stunts. Bullet ants hurt. A lot. You don’t need to find this out for yourself. Don’t let curiosity get the better of you.

And, of course, as always: fuck ants.