Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Clever science

Boonie over at Boonies Thailand Photos recently wrote about his encounter with a mean attacking centipede. Anyone who has been bitten by either a Bullant or Jumping Jack will know how he felt. His description of the attack is superb: (I hope he doesn't mind me quoting) "long, live, wriggling, back-arching, human hating, forcipule thrashing, victim seeking, centipede ... We killed the psychotic bastard without a second thought." Cheers to Boonie and Mrs S, prevention is better than cure, particularly after a horrible scary episode.

For those in Southern Australian areas where Jumping Jacks abound, the description would read: tiny, aggressive, jumping, human hating, mandible munching, victim seeking, and most certainly psychotic. Sadly, Jumping Jacks aren't as easy to kill as his 15cm horror. You really need to stomp and twist and mush to smithereens, scattering body parts in all directions, because unfortunately they are remarkably resilient.

Jumping Jack, showing golden legs and feelers (found dead on the beach)
Overseas visitors have been known to scoff, after all these little ants are only about 1cm in length, and quite elegant with sleek black body and golden mandibles. But they're aggressive, tenacious, and psychotic and when they get a grip they keep on biting, somehow alerting their mates that there's an intruder who needs to be seen off. So they march out, rank upon rank of them, then leap with vicious intent. It seems to me they can jump around 10cm when really riled, but that could be a paranoid exaggeration.

People who aren't particularly sensitive to their bite could just have mild localized swelling. But in more extreme cases dramatic swelling is accompanied by difficulty breathing, the skin can become raised with welts and pustules all over the body, heart beat is frighteningly fast, and the throat constricts, making swallowing difficult. You know beyond the shadow of a doubt that something is dreadfully wrong. In cases like this, you have about 15 minutes to intervene with antihistamine before anaphylactic shock puts an end to your time on earth. Ideally you'd take an antihistamine pill immediately when you've been bitten to prevent the more dramatic scenario.
Jumping Jack. (not actual size)

The EpiPen is a really clever device designed for people who are known to have experienced an allergic reaction (not only to ant bites, but bee and wasp stings or peanut butter). It's an auto injector, filled with adrenaline. The idea is that any noddy should be able to inject a person who is suffering with Anaphylaxis, thus saving their life. Of course, these aren't available over the counter, you have to make an appointment with your doctor, and prove that you are a sensible person, and that the recipient has had a major scare. Like any medication, it can be dangerous if given inappropriately.

It's an old wives tale that you can grow out of having a reaction, at least to Jumping Jack bites and it seems that with each subsequent bite, the reaction is more severe and happens quicker.

When we shifted house a couple of years ago, my main interest was in walking around the yard, head down looking for evidence of Jumping Jack or Bullant nests. I wasn't so interested in the house, just the potentially deadly blighters. No matter how lovely the house, or enticing the surrounds, the merest suggestion of ant nests put an end to the inspection.

Thank goodness scientists and chemists have developed these life saving medications. Science is indeed clever.

Bullant - about 2cm long


Boonie S said...

Fascinating post. I've learned a lot from this.

I'm flattered you quoted from my blog and grateful that you did so with an appropriate link back. Thanks.

Thanks for your kind words.
Thanks for a fascinating post.

All the best, Boonie

sue said...

thanks Boonie, I hoped I'd referenced you correctly and am thankful you didn't mind. You have such a great way with words, and I'm happy to link back to a master wordsmith!

Keep safe, and keep on blogging!

Helen Ginger said...

Jimminee Cricket! And folks think Texas scorpions are scary. Maybe I won't plan a trip to South Australia. Or...maybe I'll just get an EpiPen since I'd really like to go to Australia.

I gave you an award today:

N. R. Williams said...

We have some monster spiders here in Colorado, USA too, but they are not common. My daughter is so terrified of spiders she let's out a scream that would make a horror director turn his head. Once, while exploring our window well, she found a toad, held it with glee to show her Dad. Unexpectedly, the toad shot out his tongue and ended the life of a tiny spider inches away from my daughter. If the toad had ears, he lost his hearing that day.

I found you through Helen, glad to meet you and now we are friends.
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

sue said...

Thanks so much Helen I'm delighted :) sorry late reply. Unable to get access to blog.

Good to meet you Nancy. Will reply properly when access more reliable

sue said...

Helen and Nancy, It's great to finally be able to say Hello to you properly. When I find the right words, I'll be able to share my recent experience of being in China and unable to access my blog (or any others). My earlier very brief reply was from my phone in the airport in Hong Kong just as I was about to board the plane.

Helen, when I am able to work out how to display the sweet award I'll show it with pride, but at present that level of technical ability is beyond me. As for travelling here, most creatures aren't a problem, and if you are an allergic kind of person antihistamine works a treat.

Nancy, I'm pleased to meet you. I love the description of the toad, an unfortunate spider and your very vocal daughter. I'm with her, and suspect we could have screamed in unison! When you get a moment, could you tell me what a window well is?