Monday, October 08, 2007

Miss Scarlett


Chill baby.
Last week, I was in the "garden" moving old carpet I use as a weed suppressor. This female velvet ant came scurrying out from beneath a section of dirty rug and began frantically searching for cover. She's actually a wingless wasp and she has that same "Busy, I'm busy, busy, busy, ... can't you see I'm busy, can't stop and visit ... so busy, busy..." attitude as her winged cousins.
This makes photographing a live velvet ant a bit of a challenge, because they just don't hold still.
I had an empty ReptoMin turtle food container in the barn (baby turtle update this week!) so I grabbed it and scooped up Miss Scarlett, poked an air hole in the lid with an 8 penny nail, and headed into the house.
I placed the turtle food container in the fridge and set the kitchen timer for a few minutes so I would not forget (I did anyway) about Miss Scarlett and cause her early demise. My plan was to cool her down so she'd chill out a bit and allow me to take a nonblurry velvet ant picture. Then I went out on the porch to visit with Mrs. FC and Emma.
I told them not to open the turtle food container in the fridge if they went for more ice tea as their was a velvet ant in it.
Can you picture the rolled eyes and slow shakes of the head I received?
You wives can ... I know.
We chatted for a while. Emma was home from college and we were catching up. Time slipped by and suddenly I remembered Miss Scarlett.
Oops!
It hadn't been terribly long, but longer than I had planned.
I took the ReptoMin container out of the fridge and brought it out into the humid heat of the porch. When I took the lid off, Miss Scarlett lay curled up in a that way that insects do when they are dead.
I gently slid her out onto the upturned lid of the turtle food container.
She was still.
I cupped my hand over her to make a tent and gently breathed warm breath over her.
She was still.
Emma noted that if she awoke and jumped in my mouth while I was reviving her, it wasn't going to be pretty.
I continued to breathe into my cupped hand. I stopped to check her.
Still curled, but an antennae ... not both of them mind you, but one antennae was twitching.
She lives!
I kept up the insect CPR and in no time she was moving her legs and then finally, she stood up.
At the rate she was recovering from the chill, I figured I only had a minute or so to get my picture before she resumed frANTically running about.
I coaxed her on to a piece of paper and she posed for just a moment before kicking it in to high gear again.
Post picture, I let her crawl off into the mulch by the walkway.
Typical ANTics here at PFHQ. Just be careful when you open the fridge.
What?
You've never had ants in your kitchen?

24 comments:

smilin-buddha said...

Breeding snakes my wife wishes it was just ants. During baby season. There are always a few frozen rodents in the freezer.

rcwbiologist said...

Great shot! This is yet another species we used to get in the pitfall traps along the driftnet fence. They are definitely one of the more beautiful things to see in the wild.

Jason said...

I've never been stung by one of these, but I hear it is pretty intense. Another name for velvet ants is "cow killer."

jojo said...

yeha... i've been stung. swelled my whole back i was camping asleep. and got me good. ugh! but i couldn't kill it so pretty. and never saw one before that. I thought i was going to die. They are rogues? you never see more than one at a time. Why is that? i guess its more like wasp behavior than ant...

i can't believe you put it in the fridge and kept it alive. :) too funny.

why do they call them cow killers? anyone know?

Laura said...

I've never seen these before. Jojo and jason referred to cow killers, is that because of the sting?
What a pretty little gal she is.


THis is the 5th time I've tried to leave a comment! Haloscan hates me today...

Sharon said...

I never thought I'd say this, but that is one cuddly-looking ant!

Wren said...

Beautiful. I'd not only never seen one, I'd never even heard of them.

Get yourself one of them fancy kitchen timers to remind you to free the semi-frozen.

Thunder Dave said...

I've always liked the red velvet ants they look like something out of a movie!

The Datil pepper relish is making me hungry!

22 Years? Time flys!

Doug Taron said...

Velvet ants rule. There was a presentation on them at the conference I was at in Arizona in August. The presenter- a big name in the mutillid world- talked a lot about the fact that there are no confirmed predators of these species. In addition to the fearsome sting, the cuticle is so hard that most things can't bite into it.

Also great story on the photography saga. Anyone who says that chilling insects on ice makes the photography easy is nuts. Usually it just makes photography possible.

robin andrea said...

I thought I'd heard everything, but this story is a first... cpr on an ant. Well, she is a beauty and you did almost kill her, so I guess it was your responsibility to resurrect the almost dead. I've read about putting critters in the fridge briefly to chill them for photo sessions. I haven't had an opportunity to try it yet. Nice job.

robin andrea said...

BTW-- how's Emma? I hope she's loving college. Must have been grand to have her home for the weekend.

threecollie said...

That is pretty cool....

Almost too cool in fact. lol
Only ever saw one of those, scurrying across the state health insurance company's parking lot in the state capital. No camera (or refrigerator) of course.

momadness said...

Aww..FC, good post and fabulous picture. How interesting. I have never seen one!

Mrs Mecomber said...

The things a blogger does for his blog!

Good shot, thanks for all that hard work! My son will love it. We live in New York State, where our bugs are small, dull-colored, and nasty for the brief six months they are alive.

pablo said...

Yep, I would fully expect FC to be the one who would perform CPR on an insect. Nice photo, and a happy ending.

Mrs. S said...

I can't BELIEVE you gave an ant CPR. Seriously, dude, you've not changed a bit in my long absence.

Speaking of which - I have some lovely flora pictures that were taken with you in mind. Remind me to put 'em in the gallery and you can see what type of vegetation we have in the high arctic.

*HUGS!*

lori said...

OH my I have to agree it is pretty,
I've never heard or seen one before. I hope I never do because I know I wuld not be so kind as to give it CPR after I stomp it to death. sorry i just can't handle those. yeck.
I am glad someone can just take pictures and let it go. nice picture!

kathy a. said...

she is gorgeous, dahling, gorgeous! but you are kind of insane for getting your lips anywhere near her.

yes, please post emma news!

Floridacracker said...

SmilinB,
Cool! What kind of snakes?

RCW,
Very beautiful and a perfect example of warning coloration.

Jason,
I was stung on the foot once. Not fun.

JoJo,
Why, I believe you may have a heart of gold. Good of you not to kill it after it walloped you.
I think the cow killer moniker comes from the sting perceived power ...

Laura,
I have had a heck of a time commenting lately... battin' about 50%.

Sharon,
Warning: Do Not Cuddle this critter!

Wren,
Can't you see me telling the clerk why I want a timer?

ThunderD,
Congrats to you and L too!

Doug,
You can't imagine how many students have said to me, "You just can't kill a velvet ant Mr.FC, no matter how hard you stomp on it."
The cuticle is so hard that their stomping just pushes the ant unharmed down into the soft FL sand.
I usually give them a "Hey, don't stomp on it" message at that point.

Mo,
Apparently they range pretty far across the country. Doug would know better about that. Glad you liked the pic.


Robin,
Emma is doing fine. Stressing over Chemistry and Math, but enjoying the college experience. Thanks for asking about her!

Mrs. Mecomber,
Welcome! Florida bugs are everywhere and flashy ... and year round!
Glad you liked it.

Pablo,
Thanks, so far I have turtle CPR (unsuccessful) and now antlike wasp CPR under my belt.

Mrs. S,
Was I supposed to? ;)
Hey welcome back!
How's the most beautiful baby in the world?
:)

Lori,
LOL!
Post stomping CPR would probably not be worth the time.
:)

Kathy A,
Just for the record I was not in a real liplock or anything, just blowing warm mammalian air over her chilly body.
I'm just sayin'...
Emma is doing fine in college and is soaking up the whole experience. We have gotten to see her more than I expected which has been nice. Thanks for asking about her.

Cathy S. said...

I hear the song, "Only You..." running through my head.

Mrs. S said...

She's... beautiful lol

Stop by and see for yourself when you get the chance ;)

smilin-buddha said...

Mr. Pf
A few hognose including Albino and hets. A few womas, Carpets, and a first time Hybrid CarpetxBall Python. I produced the Hybrid.

Floridacracker said...

Cathy S,
LOL!
Sad but true I fear.

Mrs. S,
Will do.

SmilinB,
Wow! Pretty impressive.

Sandy said...

Miss Scarlet is so pretty and WOW! you had a close call. I'm glad you were able to revive her. We don't have pretty ants like her here in Ky. or pretty wingless wasps either.