Live Specimens

You’ll note this image is NOT taken from my keyboard… No. Not happening. Ever.

Labor Day weekend was a blast. We had 3 of our 4 children. I could tell you about taking them to the Kipona Festival in Harrisburg. How my kids got a taste of a real city, the nightlife, a walk to City Island and spitting from the roof of a parking garage—you know, the important things in life. Or the visit to TomoJoe’s and about the silliness of children, or the in-jokes of the adults. How Tomo and I always have opinions about something going on, or why the term “brain bleach” will never die. Instead, I think you need to hear about the bug

It came skittering across Tomo’s patio and Manda pointed it out. We were all surprised by the size of this ant-type-thing (probably a little over an inch long) and Bob thought we should capture it. A cup, a baggie, and several nervous jumps and squeals later, and Bob and Mark had captured this “mutant ant.” We all looked at it and commented how it kind of walked with its ass in the air. It was interesting, placed on the corner of the pool bar… and promptly forgotten.

When we left Monday afternoon, Bob retrieved the captured bug. I raised an eyebrow, “Really? It’s coming with us?” And it was explained to me that he needed to check it out further and google it and whatnot. Fine. It’s in a cup, inside a large baggie, inside an old coffee can. Okay.

And we hit the road, and again forgot about it.

Until the boychild screamed like a little girl and pointed to it crawling next to him near the window. I hopped out of my seat and dove into the back, rolling the window down in an effort to just flick it outside.

I missed.

It fell.

It landed somewhere in the back seat and three children immediately started freaking out. Two were old enough to unbuckle and do a little search and destroy dance, as witnessed by the pictures. One was trapped in a carseat and just kept mumbling things like, “I’m terrified,” or “Kill it… please kill it.”

Bob laughed hysterically as he continued to drive and we all searched for the strange fuzzy ant. The children could not be calmed and we pulled over.

Three kids piled out of the car with speeds I didn’t know possible and the two of us looked all over. We flipped seats down, we moved things, we could find no bug. Someone pointed out the narrow spot under the seat that actually opens to the ground below and we presumed it had fallen or crawled through there and was some where on the highway behind us. We piled back in and continued home. The kids all voicing their thoughts from the backseat.

“Daddy… we need to buy a new truck.”

“You know Bob, they’re giving cash for clunkers.”

“Why was that in here?!”

As Bob and I chuckled and watched the road we listened to such gems as “someone hold me” and “I don’t like bugs anymore.” Mark and Carson talked about never sleeping again and then both went quiet as they started to zone out. Manda’s eye were heavy as the busy weekend and hum of the highway began to take its toll on her. Hell, even I was slouched down and comfortable and debating co-pilot fail… Until Manda screamed. And screamed. And screamed.

Seems the gigantic bug wasn’t gone. Seems it was crawling on her arm. Seems it was no longer an interesting fuzzy ant with pretty colors. Manda flicked it. It landed on the back of my seat and Mark squished it with a metal thermos. It fell to the floor… and flipped back over, alive and fine. Manda screamed again. This was the kind of scream that makes parents react, and Bob pulled over so damn fast I almost got whiplash.

Again, three kids piled out with a speed that amazed me. I’m not even sure who unbuckled the little one, or if they just tore him free on their way out.

I grabbed a pen, because it was handy, and stabbed it. It flicked its butt at me and ran under the seat. Bob noted, “Hardy little fucker, isn’t it?”

Manda is no longer screaming at this point, but is crying and hysterical, repeatedly gasping “it was ON me!” I was in the back, Bob was in the front, and we were both frantically trying to locate the strange fuzzy red ant under the seat, while the children danced and panicked from the shoulder of the highway. A scream told us where it was and we looked in the direction of the wordless pointing finger. I grabbed my shoe and ground into it. It laughed at us and ran under the dash. Bob ran around the other side and we tried to locate it behind the console. Pen in hand, because it IS mightier than the sword, I started jabbing at the darkness to get it to come out the other side. With no results, I said, “screw it, we’re smoking it out!” and I lit a cigarette and started blowing smoke into the darkness behind the console. It came out the other side… and went under the carpet.

Bob pulled the carpet back and it promptly turned toward him and hissed. He jumped back, exclaiming “ohhh and it’s pissy, too!” and pushed the carpet back down. He hopped into the truck and stomped repeated on the carpet. Peeling it back again, he found the little bastard, still alive, still pissed off, coming toward him. It got to the edge and Bob flicked it out onto the highway…

Where Bob promptly stomped it for good.

Mark ran around the truck and decided it wasn’t dead enough and ground it into the pavement, making it one with the sole of his shoe. He scraped it off. There was some nervous laughter. And we got back on the road, pulling off the shoulder to a little voice from the backseat saying, “Daddy, run it over.”

No one slept the rest of the trip. There was relived screams and laughter and declarations of “I don’t care about the rest of you, I just didn’t want to get bit” by the littlest one, while Manda talked about how she’d never forget the close-up view on her arm and Mark declared he now hated all ants.

And then we got home and googled it.

It wasn’t an ant. It is a wingless wasp. A solitary wasp that is considered a parasite for the damage it does to other wasp & bee nests, babies, etc. It’s called the “cow killer” because it has a prehensile stinger that is long enough and strong enough to pierce a cow’s hide. A cow’s hide. Their own hide is thick enough to prevent other stinging creatures from penetrating it, making it, yes, hardy. The males have wings and no stinger. The one we had had no wings. It was a female… with a stinger. Which, according to last night’s research, can be as long as their body, coiled up inside, and used only in defense… like say, if you piss it off and chase it around a truck.

And Bob thought he should bring this in the vehicle!

After I watched some youtube footage of this thing besting a black widow spider, and some close-up shots of the stinger, the hippie has solemnly promised to “never bring any type of live specimen into the vehicle again.”

And I know three children who are holding him to that…

Happy Labor Day.

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