Sunday, June 08, 2008

The ravages of nature

The granddogs, Lucy and Winston, were with us from Thursday night until a couple of hours ago, which meant more frequent trips to the backyard over the past few days. Around noon yesterday, when I opened the back door to let all the dogs back inside, I noticed an injured green lizard just a couple of feet from the door. I started to move it, but the dogs whizzed past me so fast I just ignored the lizard and shut the door. I thought maybe a bird would get it if I was lucky.

The next time I let the dogs out, the lizard was still there, and it was covered with hundreds of fire ants. My goal quickly changed from moving the lizard to keeping the dogs out of the moving, lizard-shaped mass of ants. If you've never been bitten by fire ants, you wouldn't believe how painful the bites are.

We made a couple more trips outside before bedtime, and each time I glanced warily at the lizard. The ants were still working on it when I locked the door for the last time, but their numbers seemed to be dwindling.

This morning, first thing, I stepped outside with the pups and found this (click the picture to get a better look if you aren't squeamish):

It was so hot at seven o'clock this morning that I only got this one shot of the lizard's skeleton before my camera lens fogged up. While I wiped the condensation off the lens with the hem of my bathrobe, dainty little Lucy spotted the string of tiny bones and had herself a pre-breakfast snack. (No kisses for Lucy today.)

I'd made the appropriate grossed-out noises and headed back to the door when something else caught my eye:

This furry creature was about two inches long. It was on the concrete just under the patio table. We get furry caterpillars here sometimes, but I've never seen anything like this, so I waited and watched for a minute. It didn't move. I touched it with the toe of my slip-on shoe (afraid that the shoe would slip off), and the thing still didn't move. I bent down to get a closer look. The more I looked at it, the more horrified I became. It looked like a piece of Winston's foot.

Just in time to prevent a total freak-out, Winston came running up to the door. I inspected him quickly, breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn't have to explain something terrible to his mother, and went back to checking out the furry thing under the table.

I nudged it with my foot once more, then kicked it all the way over to look at its underbelly. Hmm. The underbelly was a swatch of fabric, with visible stitches. That's when I remembered seeing a ravaged stuffed animal lying just inside the door. A stuffed animal, further investigation revealed, that now had only one ear.

This was entirely too much raw nature for a city girl to handle so early in the morning.


  1. I find little dried lizard bodies in the house all summer that Fionna has brought in as part of her 'catch and release and eventually kill' plan. Fortunately we don't have fire ants and the humidity is so low they just get dried. I don't miss fire ants or doing the fire ant shuffle even a little bit! Carmon

  2. What an interesting weekend you had with the grand-fur-kids. The "Winston's foot" think had me worried! LOL!

  3. I've heard of piranhas skeletonizing a cow, but I've never heard of fire ants skeletonizing a lizard.

  4. I read this with horror. I hope I don't have bad dreams tonight, if I do I'm blaming you!

  5. Eeeeeeuuuuuwwwww! You must be as squeamish as I am.

  6. I love visiting here. Your posts always make me laugh.

    Isn't it great how scavengers can clean up? Are fire ants red ants? We have red ants here, and they bite as well.

  7. Velvet, Just checking in hoping for news on Butch. Please let us know when his results are in.

  8. Carmon, I only wish the lizard bodies dried around here. We have such high humidity that even the long-dead ones are cool and limp, like leather fringe. Ick!

    Alison, I'm all about caution. There's no telling how many exciting things I've missed in my life because I've been too cautious.

    Holly, the foot-thing had me plenty worried, too. I could see it, but I couldn't quite believe it, and I couldn't think of anything else that looked like that.

    Javagirl, I remember seeing a movie when I was a kid in which "army ants" attacked everything in their sight, including people. (Just looked it up: "The Naked Jungle" - 1954.) One thing's for certain: If I ever fall down in the backyard, I'm gonna scream like the dickens so the fire ants won't think I died.

    Janet, I hope you didn't have bad dreams. But, really? Doesn't that lizard-skeleton photo make you wonder what it is that the ants don't like about the head?

    Betty, I'm plenty squeamish. The mother in me has learned through babies and dogs to deal with scary and nasty bodily fluids, but creepy-crawly things and amputated doggy parts raise my anxiety level pretty quickly.

    Fire ants are dark red and constantly on the prowl. Their bites raise hard little red bumps that are filled with pus. Are your ant bites like that? And did you know that toothpaste helps to ease the sting?

  9. Creekhiker, you and I posted comments at the same time. Rather than answer you here, I've added a new post. Thanks for caring about my boy; we have good news.


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