# # Ants and Yellow Jackets

Brother, I Can See Your Skull.

Brother, I Can See Your Skull. - The Coreyshead Blog

Ants and Yellow Jackets

ants and Yellow Jackets

[*note – this story was originally called “Ants and Hornets” – I have since realized these are yellow jackets, not hornets – very likely Vespula pennsylvanica – the ants look to be Formica obscuripes]

The other day I was out on the property with my daughter, hanging out beneath the arch of a tree and the hollow of some bushes: a little hideout where I keep a chair for quiet, measured snippets of novel now and again.

Anyway, I was there as I said, chatting with my daughter, when she pointed out a dark hole in the ground.
“Yellow jacket’s nest,” she said. “I wont sit in here, they’re all over.”

Well, I wasn’t so nervous but I did move, if only to keep the conversation up with her instead of the yellow jackets.

Now I was in a field once, a hot summer field, and I had to pee. So I stepped behind some blackberry bushes and, with my girlfriend on lookout, calmly began to relieve myself. Scanning the highway in the far distance, wondering if they would notice me and know what I was up to, I didn’t see the yellow jacket land. So gently did it settle that even my most tender skin did not sense its presence. It wasn’t until it bit me, you see, that I knew I had a yellow jacket on the end of my penis. Luckily that first bite was just a tester, more a tasting scrape than a chomping bite, and I know how to yell and flail in the most correct nature-survivalist way, for I was once a boyscout.

Which is all to say I’m not one of those who claims hatred for an entire species but I must say I am not terribly keen on yellow jackets.

ants and Yellow Jackets Anyway, just last night I was pointing out yellow jacket nest holes to my wife; my wife, who was once just a girlfriend wondering what all the yelling and flailing on the other side of the blackberry bush was about. I wanted to show her the nest hole my daughter had pointed out; easy to find because of its gaping, two-thirds of an inch diameter. We bend down closer and the hole looks weird to me in the dusky light, like there’s something creamy around the black of the hole. Then I realize that the cream is the earth of the hole, that the black is something coming out of it … and going in: ants!

There’s a big nest of ants just ten feet or so from here that I have watched grow with interest. A great march goes out from it in two directions and all day long. On occasion I feed cat scraps to it – usually just the hindquarters of some hapless shrew or rat with a little dangly bit of digestive tract that I’ll toss gingerly on top of the busy mound. They snap it up, I can tell you, down to the bones in a couple of days and, if it’s an entire carcass, they slowly pull it down into the surface of the mound as they carve it clean of flesh.

ants and Yellow JacketsThe boys worry that, if I keep this up, the ants will get the taste for meat and, some night, creep into our house, hungry.

Oh, p’shaw. G’wan. Get serious.

Yet here they are, poured down a yellow jacket’s nest: a veritable army of davids against some pretty tough looking, larger, nasty goliaths – and they are kicking major butt.

ants and Yellow JacketsThey’ve pulled three yellow jackets out that I can see. One’s been dragged quite a way off. It looks dead to me, unstruggling, but the ants do not seem to care. They bite and pull and wait on the periphery, antennae twitching at the chance to dart in to give their own. The other two yellow jackets, still engaged in being dragged from the entry to their home, curl protectively against themselves in vain against an assault from all sides. Too many small, claw-like pincers drag and crush and dart in to spray some formic acid.

We watch a bit and I use my smart phone to capture a few pictures, then we lose interest and continue on our way, chatting. One can only witness so much horror, after all.

ants and Yellow JacketsSome ten minutes later or so, we are passing by again, so I stop to look. Now we see a few yellow jackets in the area, hovering about above the scene, investigating, and trying to get back in the nest. A couple of times we see a yellow jacket make the run to enter the ant-choked nest, then abort, struggling to fly off quickly, ants brushed off and nipping at its yellow jacket heels. I take a few more shots with my phone – will they come out? – and see that the ants have scored a third captive at the entrance to the yellow jacket’s nest and I wonder – was that dragged from the hole … or pulled from the air?

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