Fire Ants: You Will Know Their Wrath
Although not all fire ant species are considered to be invasive, Solenopsis invicta is, and it has inhabited the southeastern U.S., most notably Texas, since being introduced in the 1930's. Here it is called the red invasive fire ant and has even come to be known by an FDA acronym, RIFA. I will let WikiPedia do the talkin' here. This may not be news to some but others may want to hold on to their hats...
In the US the FDA estimates more than US$5 billion is spent annually on medical treatment, damage, and control in RIFA-infested areas. Furthermore, the ants cause approximately $750 million in damage annually to agricultural assets, including veterinarian bills and livestock loss, as well as crop loss. Over 40 million people live in RIFA-infested areas in the southeastern United States. Between 30 and 60% of the people living in fire ant-infested areas are stung each year.
Since September 2004 Taiwan has been seriously affected by the red fire ant. The US, Taiwan and Australia all have ongoing national programs to control or eradicate the species, but, other than Australia, none have been especially effective. In Australia, an intensive program costing A$175 million had by February 2007 eradicated 99% of fire ants from the sole infestation occurring in south-east Queensland.
And this just floored me. From the same WikiPedia article...
In just seventy years, according to a study published in 2009, lizards in parts of the United States had developed longer legs and new behaviors to escape the ants, which can kill the lizard in under a minute.
That's right. They hunt and take down prey. That's just peachy.
The previous two tramp-ants mentioned can and very rarely do bite, but for the most part their little jaws can't open wide enough for them to get at us. But if they could they would chomp on to us and spray the wound with formic acid, like most good and upstanding ants.
But not the great big RIFA (red invasive fire ant), they do have jaws wide enough to clamp on, but they only use them to get purchase on your hide so that they can swing in with the tale stinger and inject you with piperidine which burns like fire,...
Hence their name. Nasty.
Ant-Lore From Our Mysterious Past
Did you know that we have ants in our mysterious past? Well , we sure do, and I would like to touch on just two good examples of that with maybe an honorable mention.
Hopi Creation Mythos
According to the Hopi, and I do happen to put a fair amount of stock in to what the Hopi believe, we spent the interim time between the destruction of the second world and the creation of the third world, living with the ants or Ant People.
Yep, just like that, living underground, all tiny just like the ants. And while we were there we were supposed to be learning all of the skills of cooperativeness that we would need to thrive in the new, 3rd world. And that is the part that concerns me. Which I will get to at the end.
The fiercest warriors of ancient Greek history and folklore were the Myrmidons, or ant-people of Phthia or ancient Thessaly. The story basically goes like this: Hera, the wife of Zeus had devastated the lands, livestock and people of Aeacus, the grandfather of Achilles with a horrible plague.
Aeacus is so grieved by his loss that Zeus promises to replenish his people until they are “as numerous as the ants on my oak” and makes good on his promise by turning every ant in the area in to men and women. Later, it is descendants of these very Myrmidons that Achilles leads in to battle during the Trojan war.
Folklore and myth often have within them the kernels of what make us tick as human beings and human societies. I would like to offer that we have an example of that here in both of these bits of Ant-Lore. It seems that it was important to our deep thinking brethren of old that we be cognizant of qualities that we share with the ants.
This theme is also exemplified in T. H White's A Once and Future King wherein Wart (the future Arthur) is for a time changed into an ant. White uses the story narrative as an opportunity to admonish about the dangers of what seems to be a human inclination towards totalitarianism. When Wart becomes an ant and he approaches the entrance to the colony and finds a sign reading, "EVERYTHING NOT FORBIDDEN IS COMPULSORY" continued...