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Eaten Alive by Ants

Warning. Don't lose consciousness in the bush alone.

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Most of us have heard and used the expression: “I was eaten alive by …. (name your pest) …. last night.”  We throw the expression around casually to exaggerate our tale of misery from the night before battling dive bombing mosquitoes or our experience of sand flies at a beach camp or ants at a picnic. But it happens!

David and Goliath – Ant and Man

People have been eaten alive by ants.  I came across stories in our old newspapers by accident and it made for ghoulish reading.  While not one for being entertained by horrifying stories, they do make you feel mightily grateful for modern-day advances in communications, medicine, repellents and first aid.

There is no doubt our rural pioneers did it rough and tough.  They tried to carve out lives from nothing.  Many succeeded but many became victims of the bush environment, primitive living conditions, the extreme elements and the Ant.

Ant Victims

Take poor old Michael HAROLD, an 82-year-old man who lived alone in a hut at Thurgoona.  After noticing he wasn’t moving about their property, Mr and Mrs DAY took to investigate.  They found him lying unconscious in his hut covered in ants.  Parts of his body had been eaten into.  Mr HAROLD never regained consciousness and died in Albury Hospital in January of 1903.

His story appeared in The Sunday Times, Sunday 26 January 1903, p8.  Now every time I drive along the Hume Highway past the sign to Thurgoona, I think of old Michael HAROLD lying paralysed on the floor of his hut smothered in voracious ants.

The same paper reported a similar incident in Bordertown (SA) where an old resident named Luke FARROW was found unconscious in his wheat paddock being eaten by ants.

These were not the only stories. In 1881 a young boy called SPANN, from Ipswich was sent out to bring the cows in.  When he hadn’t returned home that night a widespread search was organised. On hearing a faint scream in a paddock near the house the boy’s mother investigated and found her poor son with a broken arm and injured spine.  His face, arms and hands had been eaten raw by ants who were seen carrying small particles of his skin and flesh back to their nest.   Thankfully the newspaper report said the boy was recovering from the ordeal. (The Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners Advocate, Friday 9 December 1881, p2)

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