Redefining A-hole

12 Nov

“Stop-me-if-I-volunteer-again Sam” has volunteered again. This time in Arnhem land Australia, a sacred, spectacular wilderness owned by abos who require non indigenous persons to obtain permits prior to entering. It’s often called “Where is that”?


I was heading towards

sand dunes

coastal dunes

red earth

red earth

termite mounds

termite mounds

water that will eat you

water that will eat you


and an invasive species of ANTs.

an invasive species of ANTs.

Last month 11 independANT people from around the world (including ‘mi) signed-up to locate, bait, idANTify, documANT movemANTs, and provide control for a very specific group of illegal immigrANTs; the Yellow Crazy Ant (that’s their real name so even though I cAN’T be sure of their ANTcestory Asia seems like a safe bet.) I started making extensive plans for how I was going to lure these tiny ANTimals to me (a red and white checkered picnic blanket covered in sugar), signed my emails “The Ant Whisperer”, and rang my parANTs to share the news because my mobile service provider (VodaCANTfone-anyone) certainly wasn’t going to allow me to make any calls in the Dhimurru Indigenous Area.

2 day drive

a 2 day drive away

The Yellow Crazy Ants inhabit a sweltering hot part of this sun-burnt country. Flys, biting insects, flys, thorns, brambles, flys, and unrelenting heat are everywhere. Each person in our group was given a sexy high-vis outfit which offered moderate protection from the elimANTs. We also each acquired (a choir!) a bit of oriANTation including notable ANT facts: This non-native pest is ranked “top 100 worst invasive species” by (I’m not in a position to argue) a reputable source. And then we saw an example of the Yellow Crazy Ant which turns out looks exactly like….every other ant I’ve ever seen.
I silently rated myself a “4 out of 10” at Yellow Crazy Ant identification.

We were to start at 6am the next morning when, 2 hours later, I promptly plummeted to a "-1".

We were to start at 6am the next morning when, 2 hours later, I promptly plummeted to a “-1”.

“You’re trying too hard”, Dr. Ben Hoffman told me. ‘Overachiever’ was the word I was forced to define for english-is-not-my-first-language Noémie. I felt as useless as the extra “r” in February until Daisy suggested taking a break from arthropoda hunting and holding a Laughter Yoga session — which was sure to lift my spirANTs. A rousing success (wherein we used a tarp as our yoga mat) I fell in love, again!, with the art of connection through laughter. Tomorrow was a new day.

It took me 5 days to correctly ANTdentify my first Yellow Crazy Ant because my cerebral real estate was consumed by puns.

Turns out they like cat food.

actually finding Yellow Crazy Ants is as clear as mud

Fast forward: I had seen a lot of ants. There are 7,000+ named species of ants in Australia alone and — good news: My daily ANTdentiy crisis had mostly been solved. I was an “8”; less like a dented can of cheap cat food and more like a dented can of expensive cat food. “Fancy Cat” instead of “Homebrand” and I credit one particular componANT. Smell. A similar looking ant — the sneaky endemic tyrANT — has physical qualANTies reminiscent to our transplANT but the native ant, once killed, has a defining, pungANT smell. I’d stumble across a pile of questionable specimens, smoosh one, take a deep ANT-y breath (different than an anti-breath which is probably suffocation), and know with certainty which type of ANTcounter this was.

The dreaded Green Ant.  Aka DamnANT! aka disappointmANT

The dreaded Green Ant.
Olive suggested teaching them a lesson by “biting each one who bites you”.

Here’s a breakdown of how our system worked: We put cat food down with a utensil, stuck a flag nearby, and repeated this activity every meter until we had each used our entire can of cat food and laid about 100-200 dollops, depending on whether you were Sammi or Hannah. We would then turn on our GPS’ and galavANT back to the start, identifying each ant that had now swarmed our fish and note any and all findings. I learned heaps, made friends, and traveled to parts of Australia that many Australians have never seen. — UnfortunANTely, the Yellow Crazy Ants are still out there. We did not successfully eradicate the beast #yet but we did succeed in feeding them hearty bits of protein.

Things I don’t want to forget
-To romANTicize ants, they’re fANTastic.
-ANTtelligANT (double!)
-The technique of naming your kid Aryan.

Our leader fANTasizing

Our leader fANTasizing

-After Laughter Yoga when our effervescANTs marched for hours.

My first piece of art.

My first piece of art.

Eating turtle.

Eating turtle.

Hunting mud mussels #vacationphoto

Hunting mud mussels.

My favorANT!

My favorANT!

This post is dedANTcated to all ANTities who appreciate wordplay in writing and over a CB radio, future and past Conservation VolANTeers, Daisy, Hannah, Olive, Noémie, Daryl, Azza, the Bens, my group, and of course Charlie.

No wuckin furries,


10 Responses to “Redefining A-hole”

  1. deekerson November 18, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    I saw you had a new ANTdition to your blog and my brain was filled with great ANTicipation. I expected something ANTirely different. Once I read the ANTire piece I realized I was expecting the ANTithesis of what you actually wrote. As a biology teacher, I an ANTirely thrilled you had an exceptional arthropod interaction and very glad you id not get eaten by the water. Words cAN’T define how proud I am of you and how much I love you.

    • Sammi Travis November 30, 2014 at 6:11 am #

      Aw dad.
      So sweet.
      You were expecting the antithesis of what I wrote?? What were you expecting??

  2. Jerry Pitts November 18, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    Thanks Sammi, your ANTventure was so funny!!! Really enjoyed ery ting! Watch out for the crocs, stay safe and have lots of fun!! Miss ya, Kathy and Jerry

  3. Ant Joan November 21, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    I love reading all you write.You are truly amazing.Sending hugs and kisses from ant joan

  4. Marvin November 22, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

    Dear SamANTha,
    We understANT your growing ANTagonism to the family Formicidae!
    On an ANTirely differANT subject, we’re growing ANTsy about our N.Z. & AU trip.
    We ANTicipate meeting you in either Melbourne (2/18 – 8 to 6) or Adelaide (2/20 – 8 to 6).
    A day’s activity with us will be the perfect ANTidote for your ANTipathy – your choice.
    Ant B. & Uncle M.

    • Sammi Travis November 30, 2014 at 6:07 am #


      CANT wait.
      Clever commANTs 😉

  5. Russell Poole December 2, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    This is FUR sure the most ANTeresting blog I’ve read on Australia. Love and miss your playfulness.

    • Sammi Travis December 7, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

      My visa expires here in March. No chANTS you’ll visit before then??

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