Sunday, November 29, 2009


Our friend Donnie Joe takes the occasional photograph of the local fauna. Here are a few of his latest:

Boris 2009

This little guy reminds me of Boris, who built an enormous web in the ivy alongside our driveway a few years ago.


Manny the Mantis.


A chipmunk. I can’t see one of these little guys without thinking of the Austin Blown-Star Blodgemeet.

Fire Ant

A fire ant.

Those fire ants are tiny, but they pack a wallop in their sting. Imagine, then, what it would be like to run across one of these:

Red Velvet Ant
Red Velvet Ant, AKA “Cow Killer.” Image courtesy Adventures in Furryland.

You’re looking at a Red Velvet Ant, which is actually not an ant at all, but a flightless wasp.

The first time I ever saw one of these in the wild, it was in Texas. Of course: Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the bugs. Roaches, wasps, you name it - they’re all humongous.

It looked like an ant, all right - the biggest honkin’ ant you could ever imagine, almost an inch long and covered in bright red velvety hair. I almost shit myself. Ants grow this big? Was it a Queen Ant of some kind? Gaaaaahhh!

A little research established that I had happened upon a Red Velvet Ant. Normal size, nothing special. The females can deliver a mighty sting, thus giving rise to the nickname “Cow Killer” - although it’s a matter of speculation whether they ever actually manage to sting, much less kill, any cows.

As scary as these critters are, though, they don’t fly. Unlike, say, the Cicada Killer Hornet. Yeah, I’ve seen those motherfuckers in Texas, too. Think of your average hornet... then multiply its size by about a factor of five. Yep: a hornet the size of your thumb, with the females bearing a nasty-looking stinger. Checkit:

Cicada Killer
Cicada Killer, qu’est-ce que c’est?

Killers in Hand
Photo courtesy Salt the Sandbox.

They’re really not as horrible as they look - despite their humongousness, these wasps are (supposedly) not especially aggressive toward humans. But if you’re a cicada, watch out. These hornets will sting you into paralytic submission, after which they will lay their eggs in you, following which you will be devoured from within by the growing wasp larvae. Yeef, whatta way to go.

Get this frickin’ thing offa me! (Photo courtesy

Cockroaches, as huge as they grow ’em in warm, moist climes like coastal Texas, Louisiana, and south Florida, may be disgusting, but at least they’re not scary. Cicada Killer Hornets? Red Velvet Ants? That’s another story.

Oh, and here’s one of my own pics:


Hoppity Hopper, here shown next to a quarter for scale. Alas, he wasn’t particularly lively when he posed for this shot. I suspect he was dead.

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