It also caused mayhem by way of biting a half-tonne horse!
Yes, everything bites in Australia, even the grass. Tiny garden ants will even give you a nice nip. It doesn’t really hurt, but you know they are there.
Introduction to Ants
In our first year of marriage, we were in the dinghy heading for home (our first boat) when Noel squawked “ouch!”
We discovered that he’d been bitten by an ant – it was about 5 mm long.
“Good grief, it’s an ant! Pull yourself together.” Sympathetic I was not. I’d just emigrated from the UK where an ant bite was something you did when trying to lose weight.
Of course, I received my comeuppenance when a similar-sized ant decided to taste me and I yelped, “bloody, f**king hell-bells, what the??!!”
“It’s an ant dear, pull yourself together.” Noel had such fun getting me back!”
“It bloody hurts, how can something so tiny have such powerful jaws!”
But I hadn’t been introduced to Bull ants at this point – here’s some fun facts about these feisty little creatures:
- As far as ants go – Bull Ants are giants
- They are instantly recognisable by their huge mandibles on the front of their heads (just imagine ‘alien’)
- They can be extremely aggressive (I know)
- Bull ants can sting multiple times (I can confirm this too)
- They are large, and can grow up to 40 mm
- Potent venom-loaded sting deliver painful stings by gripping the intruder with their mandibles, curling their abdomen to reveal the sting and injecting the victim with venom (how delightful)
These ants attack. If you piss them off by walking too close to them they sit back on their haunches with fisted legs as if to say, ‘come on, are you ready to take me on?’ They literally face-you-off when they are entirely alone!
If you stomp on them they concertina into a flat-pack-ant – then spring back up as if nothing has happened and all you’ve achieved is REALLY pissing them off! So it is best just to leave... quietly... perhaps just back away....
Ant Makes Horse Fly!
I’d had an odd day – I think my body was shutting down in protest of not having a day off for several weeks.
“I’m going for a ride.” I said to Noel as he continued working. I needed a nice gentle walk up and down yonder, at one with nature.
Dom (soft baby, not scared of anything) willingly put his nose in his headcollar and enjoyed a brush. Ned (scared boy but getting better) did the same.
I was brushing Dom and Ned was standing behind me, tied up, when suddenly he jumped several feet in the air, snapped the line he was attached to and galloped off.
An hour of mayhem
Ned eventually let me catch him, then would freak. Pulling away with fear in the whites of his eyes and heavy snorting.
I hand schooled him for twenty minutes but had to give up, he jumped and snorted and kept breaking away.
I saddled up Dom, thinking Ned would calm and I’d catch him and lead him while onboard Dom.
I picked up Ned’s head collar and something bit me.
“Ouch, what the??” I dropped the headcollar and shook my hand.
The recent news item of a man having his second leg amputated after a small spider bite immediately swamped my mind. I stood for a while watching my finger, waiting for it to swell and preparing myself to run to Noel to screech at him to take me to the hospital.
Although the pain shot up to the tip of my finger, after a few minutes it eased.
“Right, so I am not going to lose my arm today, jolly good.”
I swooped up the headcollar in the other hand, and CHOMP, the bloody thing bit me again. My mouth turned foul and I watched an enormous bull ant sit on the headcollar on its haunches, threatening me!
After two hours of Ned going besserk I was nearly in tears – my soothing walk with nature a distant dream. The ant could have bitten Ned on the face, around the ears several times. Horses are tough, but they are also incredibly sensitive.
Like any protective “parent” I stomped on the ant with all my force, sending Dom into a spin. But the ant just bounced back, raised it fists and said ‘that all you got?’
Noel saves the day
Noel finished work and came over to see what was wrong.
“I’ve never seen you look so desolate!”
I told him the story, showed him my war wounds.
At last some solace
Noel rode Dom and I led Charlie and we sauntered around our paddocks watching Ned enjoy his freedom on the stroll, no doubt with several bites smarting, like my fingers!
I'll be keeping a better eye out for Rantbo in the future!