Monday, October 03, 2005

Animal of the Week October 3, 2005 -- Ants ants everywhere!

Hello Chaps,

Last week's animal of the week, the giant anteater was a voracious devourer of ants and termites, so in the interest of balance and for all lovers of hymenoptera out there, this week's animal of the week is Solenopsis invicta (red imported fire ant). These ants are some of the most widespread invasive alien species -- not from space sillies, but rather appropriately like Sting in New York. Originating in Argentina, these little red and brown ants have hitched with people to many Pacific islands, Australia, India, and North America. Wreaking havoc wherever they go, fire ants trounce native ant species; they prey on hatchling turtles and birds (they can swarm into the chipped egg of a hatching quail and devour the chick before it gets out); they can even kill people should anaphylactic shock result after a sting. Fire ants farm crop pests such as aphids and mealy bugs, they do this because, in return for their protection, the pests secrete honeydew which the ants drink; these alien ants' farms can be very damaging to agriculture. A little etymology for this entomological issue, the word ant is from the old English "emmet" apparently; hymenoptera (the group containing ants, bees, and wasps) are so named for their membrane "hymen" like wings "ptera".

Last week I introduced a poem about an anteater written by Shel Silverstein... I only realised this weekend, while alphabetising my CDs (not really! I was just having a country-music festival in my bedroom), that Silverstein was a prolific folk and country songwriter. Two of his most notable contributions were One's on the Way by Loretta Lynn (see below) and A Boy Named Sue by Johnny Cash. Props to Shel (25/09/1930–10/05/99).

They say to have her hair done, Liz flies all the way to France
And Jackie's seen in a discotheque doin' a brand new dance
And the White House social season should be glittering and gay
But here in Topeka, the rain is a fallin',
The faucet is a drippin', and the kids are a bawlin'
One of them a toddlin' and one is a crawlin', and one's on the way
I'm glad that Raquel Welch just signed a million dollar pact
And Debbie's out in Vegas workin' up a brand new act
While the TV's showin' Newlyweds, a real fun game to play
But here in Topeka, the screen door's a bangin'
The coffee's boilin' over, and the wash needs a hangin'
One wants a cookie and one wants a changin', and one's on the way
Now what was I doin'? Jimmy get away from there, darn there goes the phone
Hello honey, what's that you say? You're bringin' a few ole buddies home?
You're callin' from a bar? Get away from there!
No not you honey, I was talkin' to the baby, wait a minute honey the door bell
Honey could you stop at the market and... hello, hello, well I'll be
The girls in New York City, they all march for women's lib
And Better Homes and Gardens shows the modern way to live
And the pill may change the world tomorrow, but meanwhile today
Here in Topeka, the flies are a buzzin'
The dog is a barkin' and the floor needs a scrubbin'
One needs a spankin' and one needs a huggin' Lord, one's on the way
Oh gee I hope it ain't twins again


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