Sunday, June 29, 2008

Nature's Warning Signal

When you're in the garden, and you spy the color red and it's not your prize tomatoes, hibiscus, hummingbird vine, or red verbena...and if it has legs and is crawling, that sort of red might be one of Nature's warning signs..."Keep Away."

In Florida, we have to be careful of some red creatures. Coral snakes are one sure creature with red warnings built in, and you just don't want to stick around with bare feet and hands near one...they are said to have a fatal bite (actually, they sort of chew). Everyone's familiar with the black widow spider, whose red mark also serves as a warning...moreso than you average spider. Again, you're in serious trouble if you get bitten.

I was lingering among the green things this afternoon, enjoying watching the pollinators glutting themselves in the basils. I had no idea basil plants are so lovely (even in a recycled paint bucket, ha!), but now that they've mounded they're downright ornamental, especially with their halo of flying insects hovering about. There has been a lot of rain here lately, and no complaints from me. We have to keep an eye on the ant hills...they have such a network of systems around our property, you really have to watch where you stand for too long. I was keeping a cautious eye on the situation of my sandaled feet when I saw this scurrying around busily...near my foot. In the pic, I've moved her to a bucket...

See anything?


Here's a badly out-of-focus shot, even closer, but about as close as I want to get.

Here's a closer look...isn't she beautiful?



She is a velvet ant, which is really not an ant at all, but rather a type of female wasp. The males have wings, and the females don't. They feed on nectar, which is a good sign in my garden, indicating there must be some nectar to be had. But do not take her red coloration as a red badge of courage...instead, steer clear from contact. This is NOT an insect to let the kids try handling. The other nickname for this female wasp is "cow killer" because her sting is so extremely painful it's said to "kill a cow," (which I can find no evidence it really does, but must be pretty painful!). Most likely, if you leave her alone, she'll return the favor.

I actually like the fact that red is so visible in nature usually, and also that we can be warned while still admiring the beauty of the creatures, while dangerous to us in certain situations, are just pretty much peacefully going about their lives...beautifully...

4 comments:

TOCCO said...

Ouch!!!! Never seen one of those before! Good advise... red tends to invite trouble!
Take Care
Christina

The W.O.W. factor said...

Thank goodness for the color red! We do have black widows here, totally recognizable...but other 'critters' no so...like ticks, rattlers, brown recluses. I "worry" about the latter the most while working outside. Maybe not worry..just keep close in the back of my mind...
Don't think I'd want ot be bit by that 'cow killer'!

Twinville said...

Excellent photos of the velvet ant/wasp. Glad you saw her before anything painful happened.

Carolyn said...

oh how I hate snakes! I would have died!