PSA: The Dreaded (Can Be Very Tiny)

For those of you who may be coming down here for summer vacation, keep your eyes on the ground as well as the waves. Yeah, we’re talking fire ants.

I don’t know if the ones we have where I live are Solenopsis invicta, the red imported fire ant (RIFA), or the native Solenopsis geminata. Probably the RIFA, though I honestly don’t care that much. They’re both hazards to life, limb, and sanity. They’re nasty. They’re tiny – less than a quarter of an inch long. And the import in particular will eat anything not nailed down – they eat crops, they kill livestock, and massed stings can take down critters as well-armored as box turtles and large as a cow. Meaning if the RIFA gets into an area where seabirds nest, the chicks are often doomed unless humans intervene. This goes for sea turtle nests as well. (And then you get the lovely arguments between various environmentalists about spreading pesticides, oh noes!)

They are painful. And the dog likes to drag us right through them. This is avoidable by day. Not so much by night.

Most insects I’m live and let live with. Even wasps are generally manageable, as long as you don’t blunder into their nests. The fire ant – grrrr.

The imports – which are the really nasty ones – apparently got into the country through the port at Mobile, Alabama sometime during the run-up to WWII, or a little later. In their native range of the Pantanal in South America they’re in a high-disturbance environment; frequently flooded, sometimes fires. They have a nifty if infuriating trick of balling up to float their colony in a flood. As you can imagine, in an area that gets hurricane flooding, that means dispersing for them is very, very easy.

Did I mention the pain? Burning, stinging, itching, the whole ball of wax. You might get a clue how nasty it is by the recommended course of treatment: First, kill the ant by slapping it off you so it stops stinging….

This is, unfortunately, important. You can develop life-threatening allergies to fire ants. Many do. Up to and including anaphylactic shock. So one of the first things you do once you’re bitten, along with washing the area with soap and water, is take an antihistamine! Then watch out for any symptoms of worse allergic reactions; trouble breathing, swelling throat, etc. Oh, and hallucinations and other nerve symptoms; not common, but there is a neurotoxin in the stings.

If you’re lucky (hah!) all you get are a set of profoundly itchy red hives with pustules (pus-filled blisters) on top. Supposedly the pus is sterile and will clear up on its own in 3-8 days. I have never been that lucky. So I would advise also applying antibiotic ointments. Plenty of them also come with a pain relieving element, that may keep you from scratching as much.

If the sting does scab up, try not to scratch it off. You may spring a leak.

No, really. The witches’ brew of toxins tends to dissolve your flesh right down to a blood vessel, and it just beads up and keeps dripping, like the world’s itchiest nosebleed. Apply antibiotic ointment and pressure. It’ll stop eventually.

…I make Florida sound like a horror movie sometimes, don’t I? *Wry G*

Seriously, keep your eyes open. There’s nothing to ruin your day like “augh augh slap augh!

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24 thoughts on “PSA: The Dreaded (Can Be Very Tiny)

  1. To this day I don’t know how it happened but yeah. Real story here folks:

    Years ago I hopped in the shower one morning. Without my glasses (I’m nearsighted) so when I turned on the water and felt something like sand splat all over my chest I only saw blurs when I glanced down.

    Then the pain started.

    After getting my glasses on and clearing off the things I finally knew what had happened (though why dozens of fire ants were in the shower head I have never understood) and had a patch of bites almost a foot across on my torso.

    Cue three days of agony dealing with the mess.

    Fire ants? Get a nuke. *It’s the only way to be sure.*

    Liked by 2 people

    1. *time travels back from a really awesome1 future*

      Akshully, if you do extensive tests, it turns out that fire ants are a bit resistant to nukes, so nukes are contraindicated.

      1 Awesome by /my/ standards. Other folks cared for it less. 5/5, would do again. In fact, I came back because we ran out of fissile material. We needed to get data back, so that we make more progress with the next round of tests.

      PS. Yes, I am joking.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. So one of the first things you do once you’re bitten, along with washing the area with soap and water, is take an antihistamine!

    Internal, external, or “yes”?

    I grew up with discount-generic Benadryl in all the ranch vehicles, because if you get a bee sting you 1) remove the sting, 2) make a pill into paste and get it on that sting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I apparently discovered fire ants for my family during the trip where we moved to Houston. Fortunately, I was too young to remember. Equally fortunately, I only have the itchy hives response to the stings. For a while, I grew up thinking that fire ants were normal, and didn’t even know about non-biting ants.

    Giant ants are scary enough when they just attack heroes with pincers. Giant fire ants?

    The local alchemist demands that you bring back their stingers intact: The third son of the nearby earl is fond of ingesting the hallucinogenic that can be distilled from it.

    -Albert

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They all bite, and every bite at the very least stings something fierce, it’s just some of them don’t have it as their first response to ‘Hey, this smells like a human’.

      Someone tossed one of my beanie babies into a big ant nest when I was young. I, of course, tried to retrieve it.

      Do not recommend. Maybe wait until they aren’t in attack mode, then carefully retrieve and toss beanie baby into the wash. Or the drier. Or the freezer. Or all three. Just to be sure.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. My only personal encounter with fire ants was when I was about twelve, and a family friend who lives in Galveston, TX went on vacation and asked us to house-sit for them for a couple weeks. Two weeks on an island where almost every single house is within a mile of a beach? My family thanked our friends politely and immediately said yes.

    At one point, after heavy rain the day before, I was standing on the sidewalk looking at something floating in the flooded grass. About the time I figured out it was a ball of floating fire ants, I looked down at my sandals and saw a line of fire ants walking over my feet. They were perfectly peaceful until I jumped back in surprise, at which point the movement triggered them to sting, and all seven or eight that were on my feet at the time all bit (well, stung) at once. Thankfully it wasn’t more than that, so although it hurt for a while, I never got anything worse than stinging pain. No allergic reactions or pus or anything of that sort. Still, that encounter was enough to teach me that if the ant is red, be very, very careful.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! πŸ™‚ It may take little longer for more of these to come out, but the prologue in the link is ready to go. If you can catch the first few minutes of the game’s intro in a recording on YouTube, you’ll have a visual reference for it easily. (Also, while the game was only available in Japan, I think it was taken offline there just this year due to…lack of interest? I can’t remember for sure now. Either way, it’s a bummer. 😒)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have to admit I’m interested mainly in two things.

        1) Another surviving hayajiro out there? Great, more info on what does and doesn’t work to keep yourself in one piece!

        2) I really want to know how Kaname becomes a Kabaneri, because the trailer hints at a different method from Ikoma’s or Mumei’s. Bio info!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. With regard to (1), apparently there are still a good number of hayajiro running around. There’s one that gets wrecked running from Kaname and Co’s station early in the story, and the Koutetsujou crew *pulls over* to rescue the survivors/fight the Kabane. Despite being in a politically weak and suspicious position due to the Shogun’s fall, the Koutetsujou are willing to help others *and teach them how to kill Kabane.* Kaname and crew more or less pick up on this and learn the techniques as they go, too. Through a series of events, they also gain their own hayajiro and end up helping the Koutetsujou “run, hide, fight” the zombies in the final act.

        As for (2)…. I might not have gotten to that part with the Russian translation yet, and may have missed the Japanese explanation for the scenes. It doesn’t *look,* in-story, like Kaname becomes a Kabaneri – although he says he wants to become one (Ikoma yells at him for that). As for bio info, Kaname is a bruiser who’s got a berserker temper. If he sees one of his friends (read: adopted family) attacked, he will “see red” and pound the attacker into the ground. Or get pounded into the ground himself, as he’s more of a brawler and less if a trained fighter. Hehas little to no skill at fighting and it comes back to bite him in the butt when he faces stronger/more experienced opponents.

        Kaname also has an authority problem brought on by hoity-toity and/or abusive bushi. He sees samurai/warriors as lazy bums who care more about themselves than the people they are supposed to protect (Kurusu and Kibito almost break his brain by acting like *actual bushi* rather than snobs). Because of his temper and tendency to go berserk, his friends do most of the talking and interaction with others, making Kaname feel somewhat useless. (“All I can do is risk myself,” he says at one point.) He and the others also find Ikoma’s willingness to die for and help others, even enemies, mind-boggling and incomprehensible. But Kaname admires Ikoma a lot, as he wants to be as strong as the Kabaneri is, so he *learns* even if the explanations don’t stick.

        That’s all I have on him right now – I still need to read the translation for chapter 10. If Kaname becomes a Kabaneri there I’ll pass that news on – along with the next English translation! πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Well, I must admit to an error: Kaname *does* become a Kabaneri at the end of the game’s story. The game was cancelled after Chapter 11 was released, in part because the game switched developers and the quality went downhill. Anyone who recorded Chapter 11 has not posted that recording because the game graphics are *that bad*.

        The good news is, they released the entire script for the game (all 26 chapters) on the official site for *Revolt*. Translating them will take time, but from what I was told, Kaname gets infected – probably bitten – in Chapter 25. The girl with the long pink hair in the trailer (her name is Aoi) takes her hair clasp and uses it as a restraint for his neck. So far, it seems that Kaname ended up with battlefield triage via tourniquet after being infected with the Kabane virus. The game trailer apparently reveals how this was done, but since I haven’t seen it in a while, I can’t say how.

        Tourniquets are already a canon method of stopping the Kabane virus, something we learn in *Battle of Unato* (sorry, spoilers). According to the Kabaneri Wiki, few men become Kabaneri “in the wild,” and the theory is that these men survive to become Kabaneri because they have a high tolerance for pain. Ikoma certainly has that, and since Kaname gets beaten up so much, it makes sense if he does as well. Basically, it seems that if a man with a high tolerance for pain can make a decent tourniquet around his neck quickly and hold it in place long enough (without dying), he can pull through the bite/infection and become a Kabaneri. We know in canon (avoiding spoilers for Unato, promise!) that girls and/or women can become Nue “in the wild,” but I can’t say how common female Kabaneri are outside of Biba’s controlled experiments. I think, personally, that an injection is much less difficult to survive than the bite/infection-and-tourniquet method for women becoming Kabaneri….but that’s me. It may not be canon.

        Oh, going back to the hayajiro for a minute: there are still a large number of them running along the tracks, and they can be retired when they’re too old/battered to keep functioning, making way for new models when that happens. For a battle in Chapter 10 of the game, several dozen to a hundred hayajiro (my possibly erroneous rough estimate from the description) were assembled at Mino Station to fight a Fused Colony that had nested in a nearby station. A number of these hayajiro had been somewhat hastily pulled out of mothballs and Suzuki was worried that they wouldn’t hold up well in the fight.

        Final note, I forgot to mention that Kaname has a soft spot for kids. He and his friends Chihiro (the guy with the monocle and the kerchief over his hair) and Haya (the gray-haired girl with the yellow outfit) were taking care of four younger children while living in their station before it was overrun by Kabane. (The kids were all bitten; Mumei had to shoot them before they turned.) In the game’s story, Kaname takes an instant shine to Princess Ko of Mikawa, who’s family was killed while she was held prisoner. There are hints that her older brother may still be alive, and Kaname and crew end up joining her entourage after they become railway managers (sort of the reverse of how the Koutetsujou crew came together). If Kaname sees anyone beating up on a kid, he steps in and punches out the bully, whether it gets him in trouble or not.

        Also, by Chapter 10, Ikoma and Mumei have made a dent in his outlook on life; Kaname talks Chihiro into helping everyone else at Mino Station escape when rival Totomi Station’s invasion force arrives mid-battle with the Fused Colony. Seriously, indestructible super zombies everywhere, and people are still being people. Boy, oh boy, Ikoma and the Koutetsujou have their work cut out for them….

        If you’re interested in more canon bits, I’m up to Chapter 10 of *Revolt* and I can lay hands on a character list quickly. Some of the characters are easy to lose track of/forget, but they’re in the background a lot so that’s not surprising. When the next English translation comes out I’ll pass that along, too, but it may take a while. For now, I thought this new info might make for a fun read. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      5. *Notes all this interesting stuff to chew on!*

        Though one thing of particular interest – it seems no one in Aragane knew about the tourniquet method, Ikoma apparently put that together himself knowing nothing about Kabaneri.

        (AKA yes I am interested in all canon details, thanks! πŸ™‚ )

        Liked by 1 person

      6. (You’re welcome for the new canon details! I shall endeavor to provide some more. πŸ™‚)

        The tourniquet method isn’t *known* per se; it’s more something desperate men with a high pain tolerance will try when they’re bitten in combat with the Kabane, instead of panicking and letting the virus take hold, or going straight for a suicide charge. Ikoma’s hanging rig works in part (I think) because he is motivated to *survive* for the sake of stopping the Kabane. Kaname’s motivation to survive is (likely) his family: Chihiro, Haya, and Princess Ko, along with his admiration for Ikoma (there may be other reasons as well – I haven’t gotten that far yet, so I’m guessing at this point). Another man in Unato has…a very good reason to want to survive his bite, so he applies a tourniquet in the field and becomes a Kabaneri, freaking everyone who knows him out when he returns to Unato. So far, the only ones who knew Kabaneri existed, let alone could be “made,” were Biba and his scientists. (By the way, the mad scientist Kurusu and Ikoma let go in Kongokaku? He survived and goes on to do more mad experiments in the game’s story. 😳🀦:headdesk: I think he’s finally killed there, but don’t quote me on that.)

        Nue form, or seem to form (*Unato* spoilers – sorry), when a girl bitten by a Kabane or a Kabaneri gives into despair and/or extreme sorrow. The emotion builds and builds until it reaches critical mass and she lashes out at everything as the heart of a Fused Colony. That makes Mumei’s time as a Nue somewhat different, since we see her wandering aimlessly in Kongokaku rather than hunting people down and vacuuming them into her core: she’s sad, certainly, but she’s also reaching (it appears) for Ikoma. That leads her to unconsciously mitigate the damage she’s causing when she’s a Nue, unlike Horobi and the girl in Yashiro Station’s Fused Colony.

        Regarding Kaname, Chihiro, and Haya: they’re orphan “junk dealers” who pick through scrap and sell it. Chihiro, however, has contacts in the smuggling market and has dealt in illicit parts (for hayajiro and other machines, I think) trading under the table prior to the game’s story. He’s an engineer, a prime deal maker….and he treats Kaname as an intellectual inferior. (“Ah, but this is above you!” “Let me do the talking, you’ll only mess it up!”) Remember when I said that Kaname is a berserker? His temper is so bad that he will temporarily black out in Chapter 1 and in some flashback sequences when he gets angry and jumps into fights. This is why Chihiro considers him more muscle than intellectual equal, which means he unconsciously and unintentionally puts him down and makes him feel dumb. If you can picture a character with Sukari’s snarky superiority complex, plus Kajika’s bargaining skills, add in Takumi’s engineering ability, then add a dose of pride in his knack for surviving and looking out only for those close to him…. You’ll have a pretty good idea of Chihiro’s character. He’s the brains and the “big brother” of the outfit, but he’s very much a “realist” in the wrong sense of the word. (Still, he’s young, an orphan, and surviving by wit and quick fingers – so he has time to grow out of it. Given the way Kaname talks to him in Chapter 10, there’s some promise of improvement for Chihiro in the future.)

        Haya is sweet and generally seems somewhat ditzy, though she “mothers” both boys a fair bit and insists they behave properly (i.e. “mind your manners!”). Her father (I think) was abusive, so when Kaname accidentally hits her while beating up a man who was going to hurt her, it sets her back on her emotional heels as she is reminded of what life used to be like for her. Since Haya doesn’t want an already guilt-ridden Kaname feeling worse than he does after coming out of his berserker fugue, though, she pushes it aside and does her best to cheer him up. Basically, where Kaname grunts, growls, and gets into fights while Chihiro schemes, swindles, and sweet talks, Haya chatters, hugs, and acts like a bubbly girl. She’s not an airhead by any stretch, but she’s also not the brightest bulb in the box; Ikoma ends up taking a bullet in the stomach for her when one of Totomi’s soldiers decides to shoot her to upset Kaname. If Haya had been paying attention and dodged, ducked, or fired back that might not have happened. She’s also not a very steady moral compass – Chihiro can talk her into almost anything, and Kaname only talks *him* into saving people in Chapter 10. So she’s a bit of a weather vane in that regard.

        Princess Ko is sweet. And she’s so naive/easily talked around that she makes Ayame’s giving up the Master Key in the mountain pass look tame in comparison. Of course, she’s 10 or 12 *at most* and has no family but her missing brother, who may be a captive somewhere. Only when she spends more time with the gang does she starts to become a stronger person. She finds some of her royal steel during the first 10 chapters of *Revolt* and shows promise as a princess, but she still has room to improve.

        There’s more information, but I think I’ll save that for later, since I have some things to take care of. (Also, I need to go back and look up some names to get certain things straight!) When I have that assembled I’ll write back! πŸ˜ƒπŸ‘

        (Ah, bonus info: Suzuki is married and a father of three. His brother is also a steam smith living in a station in the Central Lands. I think – have to check this to be sure – that Suzuki’s brother is also the head of that station! There are other Westerners based in a station in the Central Lands, too, but they’re either loyal to the station lord or they’re visiting dignitaries. Or they’re both.The blonde girl wearing blue looks American – possibly a cowgirl – while the man is Russian. And the other girl’s name is *drumroll* Elsa. *ba dum tis!* She’s German/Scandinavian – not sure which just now, have to double check in the morning…..)

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Yeah – though honestly, I like the backstory you’ve made for him so far. And I don’t know much about Suzuki’s family; they’re apparently featured in a DVD(?) with some mini stories included on it. It’s all in Japanese, though, so understanding it without subtitles would be beyond my capacity. Also, this is Suzuki’s full name – in Japanese and European, with a Romanji translation: Tanzaemon Suzuki, a.k.a. Bercy van Basten (Berushii fan Basuten). His brother’s Japanese name is Hasuto Mouri.

        Another alteration that you’ve made which I enjoy is Uryuu’s journey. In *Revolt,* Uryuu has signed up with Totomi Province’s leader, Yasukage Kajou. Kajou’s endgame seems to be power, plain and simple. Although Totomi has good reason to go to war (Mino Province was hoarding food and the rest of the provinces were at risk of starving), Kajou has expanded his campaign to invade and take control of all the provinces in the Central Lands. Uryuu knows that Kajou isn’t a hero like Biba was to the Hunters, but he and the remaining Hunters have sided with him because he is strong. Uryuu wants to see of he can win, but he has no real loyalty to Kajou.

        Kanaya and Towa Masutou, two brothers from Totomi, *are* loyal to Kajou. Kanaya is the weaker fighter so he’s the strategist. He’s also a bit of a stickler for manners and is a bit mediocre, especially compared to Towa who is *nuts*. Towa wants to fight the strongest opponents and considers Kaname (initially) to be a pushover. He and Kanaya know about Kabaneri and recognize what Ikoma is pretty quickly (in the battle with the Fused Colony outside Mino, Towa tries to bait Mumei into a fight after he realizes she’s a Kabaneri, but Kaname convinces her to help the Koutetsujou kill the Colony while he fights Towa and returns to Mino to rescue a recovering Ikoma from Totomi’s forces). Towa develops a mad grudge against Kaname after the junk dealer beats Kanaya and “messes up his face,” so in Chapter 10 he doesn’t need convincing to fight Kaname. Lest I forget, Towa’s weapon of choice is *a chainsaw*, and he’s ready to fight Uryuu after the latter mocks him and Kanaya for returning to Kajou without Princess Ko Mikawa in tow. Only Kajou’s intervention, backed by his female adjutant Hisatomo HarukawaΒ (who is voiced by a guy for some reason), stops a battle from breaking out. Uryuu is more amused than put off, and he and the Hunters may have informed Totomi of the fact that Kabaneri exist. Uryuu admits to Kajou that he knows our heroes, though he seems to bear no real ill will to Ikoma, Mumei, or the Koutetsujou crew. A grudging respect appears to encapsulate his attitude toward them here and later on. He’s certainly more stable than Towa, that’s for sure!

        Princess Ko seems to be seen as something of a bargaining chip in Central Lands’ politics. Shigehisa Mizuno wants to more or less sell her – dead or alive – to Totomi to stay in their good graces as he has sided with Kajou (Mizuno also doesn’t care for the people of his station at all). Aoi – the girl with the long pink hair who saves Kaname from a Kabane bite – is a “little samurai” whom Mizuno sends to kill or capture Princess Ko. He manipulates her into doing this due to (a) shame attached to Aoi’s family name, which is Kotoshiro, and (b) threatening “thirty lives” in her village. If the unwilling assassin doesn’t present the Princess to Mizuno by the end of the month, those thirty people will die in the “winter cold.”

        Aoi doesn’t want to do it. But she doesn’t appear to have much of a choice. Of course, our heroes are going to have something to say about her mission, so things will doubtless get “interesting” when they meet. πŸ˜‰

        For the most part, fighting the Kabane in-game is like fighting them in the series. Jet bullets work, Hunter bullets work, and Totomi has Hunters working with them. And since they’re *conquering* stations (after some decent pillaging, looting, and murdering) they have to be keeping the hordes out *somehow*. The problem is people are still terrified of the Kabane, the Koutetsujou is still spreading the word that the monsters *can* be killed, and politics has led to lots of local strife. Navigating through all of that is tough *without* throwing in radioactive zombies. Add *them* to the mix, and everything just gets harder.

        The first ten chapters of *Revolt* practically count as season two of Kabaneri no Koutetsujou. Since the game graphics were atrocious, season three – the next half of the game – was never produced. The script is there but breaking it down and translating it is a work-in-progress. So snippets like this are the best I can manage at present. I’ll go back at some point so I can refresh my memories of the earlier chapters to fill in some more gaps, but this is what I can share right now. Hope it helps!

        Liked by 1 person

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