Red Velvet Ant

This last day of August began cloudy, warm and very humid. The harsh rasping of cicadas filled the air, a constant, enveloping background of edgy sound. Two Chimney Swifts flew over low, twittering, against a hazy blue sky. 

As I started out for a walk, I stopped along the driveway to watch a colorful Red Velvet Ant as it crawled across the driveway from grass on one side to the other. A Red Velvet Ant is actually a wasp, but a female has no wings and looks like a very large red and black striped ant. Red Velvet Ants are solitary, and are parasites of other, ground-living wasps and bees. They are not aggressive, but if handled or disturbed, have an extremely painful and powerful sting. 

When I walked on, the calls of birds all along the way were widely scattered and scarce – Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Northern Cardinals, Eastern Towhees, Carolina Wrens. A Downy Woodpecker whinnied, a Great Crested Flycatcher called its summery whreep! The soft pik-a-tuk calls of two Summer Tanagers moved through a stand of pines. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher called its wispy spee-spee from a water oak. In one large yard already littered with lots of crumpled fallen leaves, a dozen American Robins foraged in the grass, and two Brown Thrashers watched from under the shade of a bush. Blue Jays cried and flew from tree to tree. A White-eyed Vireo sang from a small, dense thicket of trees and shrubs. 

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