Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Beware the Red Ants - vicious little buggers....

What you are looking at here is the untoned, in-need-of-a-shave, lower right leg of a slightly overweight woman who had a bit of a tan from when we got the heatwave a little while ago (remember that? When it got too warm to sleep? That was our summer this year, right there - I hope you made the most of it!) but which has now faded. I genuinely apologise for inflicting the sight upon your innocent retinas. And, yes, those are floorboards you can see, bare floorboards with just the ghostly herringbone imprint of ancient perished underlay upon them. We're redecorating and the carpet's come up. Just in case you thought we were too poor to afford decent floor covering. Which we're not.

What I want you to concentrate on instead is the constellation of angry looking red lumps scattered liberally about it. I may as well own up to the fact that, yes, the leg belongs to me (I have another just like it but without the lumps) but I think you'd probably guessed that anyway. After all, why would I be talking about someone else's pale, hairy, lumpy leg unless I was being especially bitchy that day, so, yes, it's mine. Just thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that it's not attached to your body because THE ITCHING IS DRIVING ME NUTSO!!!

Yesterday, because it wasn't raining (hence the lack of posts lately - nothing much to report if I don't go to the allotment due to the weather), I decided several hours of stuff needed doing, involving harvesting produce (or, as we pronounce it in our house, in that very annoying American way, 'pro-dooce'. Because it amuses us, alright? Look, we've been married for 13 years so we have to make our entertainment in whatever way we can...) and transplanting 50 beetroot seedlings into where the onions are now being harvested from. Ooh, bad sentence but '...transplanting 50 beetroot seedlings into from where the onions are now being harvested' is worse. So just suck it up, grammar nazis.

Now, like many of you good people, I have an iPod. It has my entire music collection on it, numbering close to 9000 tracks now and, for the first time ever, I took it to the allotment with me. Strapped on the headphones, chose my 'St Vitus Dance' playlist (all tunes I can't keep still to) and, singing away at the top of my voice, danced up and down the potato rows, boogied around the beans and shimmied amongst the sweetcorn. Our site where my allotment is is large, 4 acres, and I was the only person there so my dignity (and their eardrums) remained intact.

But, my goodness, what a difference it made to my work rate! I suppose much like people listen to music when they're at the gym or going for a run, you get into the rhythm, and shaking your booty and singing along to some bangin' beats tends to take your mind off the tedium of weeding (or jogging or stairclimbing or whatever) and by the time I'd finished listening to my list of tunes written by the genius Cathy Dennis (Kylie's 'Can't get you out of my head', Britney's 'Toxic', Rachel Stevens' 'L.A. Ex', Katy Perry's 'I kissed a girl', Sugababes 'About you now') and was most of the way through my Funky Prince playlist (not the sloppy stuff, just pure purple funktasticness, like 'My Name is Prince'), I found that I'd dug up at least 100 onions (it's okay, I meant to) and laid them out in the shed to dry, weeded where they'd been and popped in all 50 beetroot seedlings.

I also found that my brain was so busy dealing with the additional stimulus of the music that I was not paying attention to the fact that, all that time, I'd been kneeling in a red ant nest. A nest now full of very angry red ants. Because I was busily demolishing their home. Which is understandable. The stings, when they happen, feel like you've lent against the end of a bit of sharp dry grass. Obviously I felt them but they felt like I'd lent against the end of a bit of sharp dry grass. It wasn't until I bothered to look down that I saw my kneeling pad had a handful of very smug looking red ants scuttling across it and back into the grass that I realised it wasn't dry grass. Bugger.

Ant 'bites' aren't actually bites at all. Black ants wee a little bit of formic acid onto your skin which stings a bit but that's all. Red ants have a modified ovipositor (a tube through which eggs are laid) which presumably resembles a hypodermic syringe which they jab you with and inject you with formic acid. At first you don't see anything so I didn't know how many times I'd been bitten but, having been bitten several times over the months I've had the allotment, I knew they would take 12 hours or so to emerge.

And so it came to pass - I could feel the itching starting in bed this morning and when I went to put on some insect bite cream, I could definitely see the six red lumps. The itching will become worse when I get hot, so nighttime is always tricky - it's not that easy to sleep with one leg on top of the covers. The lumps will get smaller and go down but will become dark red and eventually leave a sort of darker skin-coloured stain will can take months to finally vanish.

I may entertain you with further pictures of the Evolution of the Lumps but take this posting as a warning - be careful around red ants and brush them off you as soon as you see one!


  1. Ow!
    If the lanacaine doesn't work, try a mug full of cider vinegar in the bath, and the homeopathic remedy apis mel. Good luck.

  2. Hi Katy - Lanacaine kinda works okay but I'm sure it'll happen again so I'll remember for next time.


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