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The Hairy Sand Ant The so-called wood-boring wasps, Trypoxylon, which are not borers at all, but merely users of holes in any convenient substance, possess very weak poison, as I well know from having had it demonstrated upon me from the insect net. As for the semi-social, stout-bodied digging wasps of more than medium size, Bombex, it is said that they get into something of a rage when their nest is hastily approached, but do not attempt to use their stings. On the other hand the little burrowing bee-catchers, Cerceris and Philanthus, sting with such virulence that their bee and leaf beetle victims are killed at once. The gold wasps or cuckoo flies, Chrysididae, do not appear to possess poison glands; they rarely sting, even if taken by the fingers from the net. If defense is attempted it results in but a mere puncture like the deep prick of a fine needle.
A similar stab is given by certain larger, non-poisonous Ichneumonidae. No doubt the larger the insect the bigger its poison sac, but that does not seem to be the chief influence. We have an example of relative size and strength of venom as between the big sand hill hornet, Sphecius, and members of the hairy sand ant family, Mutillidae. These latter are, with the exception of the bumblebees, Bombus, the most virulent of all stingers. The length of their stilettos perhaps accounts in part for the severe result. The sand hornet makes victims of the cicada, as is well known; the sudden cessation of the husky homopter's buzzing resistance after one quick stab attests to the deadly character of the poison injected.
The Mutilla minds its own peculiar business, its bright red and black colors warning hungry birds not to touch it. I have been stung once by each of these interesting insects, by the big sand digger on the thumb when she was going out of the net into a cyanide jar. The stab felt like the plunge of a red-hot needle; the bottle and lifted cork dropped, spilling the solution and liberating the valiant objector. But the hurt was not lasting and the member swelled but slightly.
I came into contact with the red and black hairy sand ant, Sphaerophthalma occidentalis, when beginning my active collecting efforts as a boy. There before me was a slowly running, gaudy thing that was some new kind of a hirsute ant and it was getting away toward a tangle of long grass. In that section there are no true ants that have stings; therefore, eager fingers closed on the creature. And unclosed! I hardly could believe the creature was not a whole and condensed beehive. I flung it from me and it got away. I have collected many of that species and others of its near relatives since, but tweezers have been used, or else the specimens sought have been made to run into an open cyanide jar.
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