Tuesday, April 6, 2010


I got up nice and early this morning for a staff meeting with the lovely Bernheim folks, and on the way back got the bright idea to make a video about plugging my headphones into a red ant nest (in a rotting stump) and creating a sound composition based on what I "heard" (of course, this would all be made up, since my headphones are clearly not going to transmit anything from my plugging them into the ant hill.)

So I went to the cabin to get my headphones and jack to see what would happen if I tried to plug it into one of the entrances to the nest. Well, I crept up to the nest and really quickly shoved my jack into a hole in the stump. Hot damn, did those ants come STREAMING out to swarm the jack... and I was holding the headphones out at a distance, but those little guys started marching up the coil, coming to get me!

I tried to pull the headphone jack out of the nest by yanking the headphones. Now, my headphones are built with a mini headphone jack on the end, and I had hastily attached the standard jack adapter without screwing it on well. So, I yanked the headphones. The standard jack disconnected from the wire and stayed "plugged" into the red ant nest while the cable coil sprang back, hit me in the face and covered me with ants! Of course I spun around screaming crazily and trying to brush them off of me. I didn't get a single bite/sting, though.

I shook the headphones as hard as I could to get the remaining ants off of it and threw it on the ground. But... the adapter was still plugged into the nest! I found a nice long stick and tried to dig the jack out of the rotting wood. Of course the ants started marching up the stick, and I had to frequently shake it. Also, ants were trying to crawl up my pants legs. Eventually, after much dancing around, I managed to pop the jack out of the stump and immediately lose it in the thick cab grass surrounding the nest. I swore a lot and dug around in the grass with the stick, completely unable to find it!

Well, I did find it eventually. And what an adventure the whole thing was! When I got back to the cabin I learned that these are probably red carpenter ants, and that they are not actually terribly aggressive. So... maybe they were just streaming out to say hello. They also apparently do not have the ability to sting, but they can bite heartily, and then will spray formic acid into the wound. Quite delightful.

In any case, I may try the whole thing again with my video camera later this afternoon... Wish me luck.


  1. My Julia, hat was quite an eventful experience this morning! I wish you all the best. Congrats again on your artist-in-residence at Bernheim. They are very lucky to have you in their stead! I look forward to hearing more of your adventures at Bernheim.

  2. I think red carpenter ants use wifi systems. Probably weren't familiar with the RCA jack.