Friday, August 27, 2010

The Hissing of Summer Lawns

Last weekend, I was showing our farmsitter, Beth, what needed to be done to take care of our buffs when she spotted this running along the ground:
Click on the pic for a closer look. It's a red velvet ant, a.k.a. the cow killer. This is probably one of the prettiest insects around but it's also quite dangerous. While its name is inaccurate--it's a wingless wasp, not an ant--its reputation is apparently quite well deserved. The sting will not kill you but it is said to be so painful that you will wish you were dead. Fortunately, these beautiful creatures are quite shy and will only sting if you step on them or try to pick them up.

I have seen one or two of these before for just a brief second or two. They're very adept at going to ground quickly when spotted. The picture doesn't do justice to the intensely beautiful orange-red color and the velvet-like texture (judging from looks only) of their hairs. It would be very tempting to touch one if the consequences weren't so dire. Red velvet ants like sandy soil and here on Sandy Mush Creek, we've got plenty of it, so if you come for a visit, we definitely recommend keeping your shoes on when you're outside.

The next morning, I went out to take water to the buffalo, reached down to grab the black metal handle of my garden cart, and gave a small black snake a big surprise. Actually, it was a mutual surprise. I swear I heard the snake say "ACK!" just as I did. The little snake couldn't have been more than 14 or 15 inches long and was very skinny. I thought it might be one of the young black rat snakes. Perhaps it was using the handle as camoflauge.

I think I'm going to start calling Old Creaky the snake tree because this happened under the same tree where we had our snake-on-snake violence. A week or so ago, I also found this under the tree:
Yup, it's a snake egg. It had a hole in it out of which was poking a bit of fetal snake. It clearly wasn't in good shape and when I opened up the egg, it was obvious that the snake-to-be was not to be. I began to wonder if the king snake in the tree was a mama snake and she booted this one out when it was clear that it wouldn't develop properly. Or was it stolen? I don't know enough about how snakes care for their eggs or not to make an educated guess.

So, back to my little snake. It slithered off toward the mimosa tree and I went on with my morning. That afternoon when I was mowing the lawn near the well house, the little snake darted out in front of the mower. I turned off the blades and watched the snake stop just a couple of feet away. I waited for it to move, so I could continue without worrying about harming it. It reared up a bit and then I noticed--it was just about to finish eating another small snake!

Now I'm wondering if this was a young king snake that made a food run over to the well house where I know we have rat snakes. It's that or it was preying on a sibling. I felt less kindly towards it at this stage but no sense in losing two snakes in one day. I went and mowed in another area for a bit to give this reptilian gourmand a chance to relocate. Fortunately, it disappeared--into the snake tree, no doubt--and I finished my mowing of the yard.

Then, it was off to the driveway portion of the mowing (our gravel driveway has a grassy strip in the middle). Sure enough, as I got up towards the big barn, our biggest rat snake, King Rizzo, was crossing the driveway. I backed up to give him room to run and he eventually returned to the ditch from which he'd come. After I passed up and back, I looked back to see him attempt the crossing again. As he headed toward the barn, I noted that he, too, had recently dined as evidenced by a large, rodent-shaped bulge in his belly. Do snakes have bellies? No matter. You know what I mean. Made me think of the elephant inside the snake in Le Petit Prince.

Anyone up for a picnic at our place?????

1 comment:

  1. Who wouldn't wanna have a picnic at your place!? The bugs and snakes are just have the great luck of SEEING them.