To each his own. To me my own.

The Red Velvet Ant

I’ve witnessed one. And I’ll never forget that day. Nor will I regret killing it.

I was telling a couple of friends of the story yesterday. It still tops the chart of the most interesting insect I’ve ever seen, and I told them had I been blogging back then there would’ve certainly been a 4-5 page blog about it. I figure, better late than never!

Several years back when I still lived at my old house, I pulled up our steeply inclined driveway and there it was. A little over an inch long, there was this monstrous-looking bright red and black striped segmented body taking a gingerly walk on the driveway. I got out of the car and immediately ran inside for the bug killer (sorry folks – if I had a do-over I’d reach for the bug-killer again). Back outside, this ‘thing’ had made it’s way over to the edging in between the driveway and our well-manicured lawn in an attempt to hide.

The monster’s coloring was so bright it looked fake, but I was quickly reminded wasn’t once it started charging me. The hairs were long and fine, and looked so soft, like velvet. I dared not get to close because the thing ran so fast towards me, I would’ve probably had a coronary if it had reached me and stung. I had to get closer to even start spraying, and when I did what I heard about made me faint. The thing was screaming. Later, upon reading up on them I found they do this when threatened. Well, I was threatening it all right – I’m just glad this thing didn’t know how scared I was. I finally got close enough to start spraying the bug killer – at first it didn’t phase the creature.

Once it started working, I didn’t let up. (All God’s creatures? Nuh.)

The ‘red velvet ant’, also called a ‘cow killer’ is actually a wasp, and is a member of the Mutillidae family. The female is wingless, which is what I encountered. They range in size from 1/8″ to a little over 1″. The two largest ones are the Satan’s (appropriately named, wouldn’t ya say?) one being black with a yellowish-white abdomen and the other red and black. The males have wings but no stingers, while the females have stingers but lack wings. Don’t let the looks deceive you – even though they look soft and silky, the heavy outer covering of body functions as a suit of armor and can only be penetrated with great difficulty.

These ‘ants’ (remember though, they’re wasps) vary in color. On the west coast, they are generally white, central America, they appear orange and black, and on the east coast (primarily the southern states) they are bright to crimson red and black.

Cow killer


42 responses

  1. Pingback: Cow Killers – the Red Velvet Ant revisited « Life of Bon

  2. Mona

    It is too bad you killed it. These creatures are not agressive. You misinterpreted it’s “charge”. I encountered a very large black and red velvet ant and she made every attempt to get away from me. They do no harm unless stepped on or handled.

    August 6, 2010 at 9:27 am

    • Bonnie

      Well Mona, seeing as how you weren’t there for my experience, you actually can’t say that I ‘misinterpreted’ anything. Being that it was about 3 feet from running straight into my garage, I believed at that point I would have had to “handle it”. Nuh. If given a do-over…. I’d kill it again.

      August 6, 2010 at 10:54 am

      • Mike

        I enjoyed reading your post. I will share that while these things are not aggressive, they certainly have a stinger like a sting ray! I was messing with one when I was about 11 at my house in Georgia. The stinger is about 3/8 to 1/2 inch long and loads of venom. I got stung and it is the worst pain you can imagine! And it last for hours! The sting left a scar on my finger that I still have 47 years later. I’ve been stung by every kind of bee and wasp and nothing comes close. My kidney stone experience MIGHT eclipse that sting.

        I just kill ’em. (which is hard to do, as you know)

        July 11, 2018 at 10:36 am

      • I find it amazing that you still have a scar from its sting many years later. Goes to show just how potent its venom really is. Thanks for your comment, Mike!

        July 11, 2018 at 11:00 pm

  3. mary

    I had one of those ants in my yard this morning and I did kill it. I dont like bugs period.


    August 26, 2010 at 11:13 am

    • Bonnie

      Apparently the months of July and August are ‘prime’ for this creature! The google search engine runs amuck during these months with questions on it!

      August 26, 2010 at 11:27 am

      • today i saw one of those bugs i was terrified
        i told my mom to kill it im scared its still in my yard and im glad you killed the one at your house cuz if it chased after me i would kill it too no affence

        May 31, 2011 at 7:00 pm

      • Bonnie

        They are very un-natural looking, that’s for sure! And don’t worry about offending anyone on this blog sweetie, that’s what it’s here for is opinions. Try not to worry about the bug in your yard, it’ll likely go back underground anyway. Just do like I do and make sure you always at least have flip-flops on! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

        May 31, 2011 at 7:54 pm

  4. Caty

    I found this site because we found one in our yard yesterday – my son had it on his hand while we took pictures of it. He checked for stingers etc before he picked it up.

    No aggression was shown.

    Unless you are a cow it probably wouldn’t have killed you.

    Good grief.

    Your web-site looks like you love nature and then a small bug makes you panic like it was “charging” you?

    It was a bug – outside where IT lives and you try to sound like Indiana Jones in your encounter.

    September 5, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    • Bonnie

      Opinions are like assholes – we all have one. While you are free to express yours, I’m afraid it’s MY turn now.

      “Unless you are a cow it probably wouldn’t have killed you”. Are you serious lady? Umm, you DO know that’s a probable myth, right? The least you can do is have your facts in order before feebly attempting to change the world by ripping on someone else’s blog.

      Do not make the mistake of assuming to know me. The way I see it, you were only right about one thing – it was a bug. Not an animal, not a person, but a BUG. For cripes sake, go join PETI (people for the ethical treatment of insects) or something.

      Indiana Jones? Nah. Well, hey…. I kinda like the sound of that….

      September 6, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    • Helen

      Bonnie, I just have to say my 2 cents worth. The lady that gave you grief over killing that bug….I have one question…if a Black Widow was after you, would you kill it?? Even if it was outside where it lives?? I can tell you one thing…if that ant {wasp} had gotten to Bonnie it would have hurt her. How do I know??….I’ve been stung by one. My hand ended up being about 3 times its normal size and I had red lines running up my arm. I ended up in the ER because the sting made me very sick. All I can say is your son was lucky not to have been stung. Know what you’re talking about before you “rip” into anyone again. BTW…great come back Bon!!

      September 7, 2010 at 4:21 pm

      • Bonnie

        Helen, that’s what the comment section’s here for, is our 2 cents worth. However, I find yours to be worth much more than that.

        Since writing this post some months ago, I’ve encountered two other people who have been stung by this insect – their stories were equally as disturbing. Depending on how you ‘handle’ stings and venom (and keeping in mind our bodies all vary) it could very well be lethal. I’m sorry you had to go through that, and I’m sure it was traumatizing!

        You know, there are people out there who just aim to stir up controversy – and the manner in which this reader attacked my character made it all too obvious that she falls into that category. One can only hope her ‘son’ is really an adult, because I simply cannot fathom knowingly allowing my child to pick up this insect. The persons that are familiar with it (cough-cough) are well aware of the powerful punch a sting packs. The stinger that she insists it did not have was there, and is dangerous. This is not an insect to play around with.

        But if they want to keep on picking the things up, that’s their business. Indiana Jones… indeed.

        September 7, 2010 at 7:28 pm

  5. Tracy

    Ya don’t mess with the Bon! heh, heh, heh…

    September 6, 2010 at 10:52 pm

  6. Tracy

    “It was a bug – outside where IT lives and you try to sound like Indiana Jones in your encounter”

    It is called writing.

    September 6, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    • Bonnie

      Thank you, Tracy. I have to admit though… that particular ‘slam’ gave me a big smile. 🙂

      September 7, 2010 at 7:32 pm

  7. Don

    My wife had been seeing these around our driveway lately. She explained how hard it was to kill. She said she stomped on it 5 or 6 times but it refused to die. (I thought she was being dramatic.) I just saw one yesterday and my son started stomping that thing at least 9 times and it just kept on going til he finally after tiring himself out got it to stop moving…and even then it wasn’t quite dead. Any insect that it this hard to kill has to go!! I don’t care how cute and harmless it may appear. Nature has a way of letting you know that certain things you stay away from. It’s colors says “Don’t touch!!” I would never let my child pick something like this up. Stingers can be hid by insects. Well I’m glad to know what it is. It shall not live long on my property for long. Anybody want to give them a home? 🙂

    September 9, 2010 at 2:08 pm

  8. Bonnie

    Don, I have heard this thing is extremely hard to kill, with it’s outside shell being almost armor-like. The soft velvety look is very deceiving. My, your wife and son’s encounter sounds disturbing! What you said about nature having this way of warning us about possible danger by colors is spot-on. As far as I know, there’s no ‘shortage’ of these things. If I see one again in my lifetime, I will be turning into Indiana Jones again.


    October 14, 2010 at 7:51 am

  9. rebecca

    well-it is october & i have found 2 so far in my backyard walking through the grass…i did not get to this website until after i eliminated both of far as i could tell-it looked like a gigantic red ant & any time i have encountered a red ant-the outcome was not good!and believe me-they are not an endangered species & i have no guilt about crushing the things with a shovel!

    October 20, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    • Bonnie

      Thanks for stopping by Rebecca – it really does seem as though there’s an increase in these bright creatures these days. Maybe not, but I did go 40 years without ever seeing even one! And, it just about takes a shovel to kill the things. 😀

      October 22, 2010 at 1:24 pm

  10. Amanda

    I am 25 and when I was about 8. I remember seeing this ant/spider/wasp thing. It was the only time I have ever seen this and I have never forgotten about it. I crushed it (or tried to ) about 8 times and finally gave up because it was not hurt at all. I never knew what it was until the other day, I was telling a class mate about it and he said that it was a red velvet ant. Then he told me of how he took a pen and drove it into the abdomen ( or tried to) and it didn’t even phase the ant. Then he went on to tell me that his friend accidentally discovered several of them at once and got stung and his hand swelled up and looked nasty and had to go to the hospital.

    These things are no ******* joke.

    June 23, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    • Bonnie

      It’s amazing to hear of people’s recollection of seeing one – it seems to always leave a lasting impact. The strength of these ‘creatures’ really is crazy scary. As bad as I’ve heard just one sting from this thing is, I can’t imagine the sting of several. Everyone’s body has a different reaction to certain venoms, and it can definitely be lethal. I’m glad your friend lived to tell about it! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

      July 23, 2011 at 1:03 pm

  11. mac

    I just stomped, smashed, and slid one of these under my foot across the floor of my garage to its death!

    July 23, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    • Bonnie

      Glad to hear you got it, Mac – these things are nearly impossible to kill!

      July 23, 2011 at 12:55 pm

  12. Amy

    Well…I just encountered one of these ugly things. Lucky for me I had someone with me who knew what its was and its potential to harm. The only thing I could think of was KILL IT!! I have heard on here that they were hard to kill…I did smack it with my hill once and it kept moving and my friend kept saying they are hard to kill but I gave it another good smack(really hard this time) and it splatted. I have seen pictures and they are kinda what it looked like but I didn’t notice the fur(but i wasnt trying to get to close to see it either). My point is it wasnt that hard for me to kill, but i guess when your thinking its me or this creepy crawler you get a rush of strength…lol…Thanks for having this blog 🙂 I know my friend told me what it was but in all of my years i have never seen this disturbing thing so wanted to do research of my own.

    August 26, 2011 at 10:52 am

    • Bonnie

      Thanks for your comment and sharing your experience, Amy! I’m glad you were able to ‘take it out’. You know, this particular post gets more hits than ANY post on the blog – that in itself tells me how compelling these creatures are. The first time you see one of these things in person, it’s like you do a double-take and question whether it’s real or not. Scary stuff!!

      August 26, 2011 at 11:02 am

  13. Sandy

    I just encountered one outside way in the back yard and googled it as I didn’t know what it was. I would have never thought to kill it. He wasn’t bothering anyone. If I would have heard it screamed, I would have died. { sorry just my two cents worth }

    August 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    • Bonnie

      You don’t have to apologize for your two cent’s worth Sandy, I appreciate your views. What people don’t seem to get here is you can voice your opinion in a respectful way, like you did, or you can choose to be an ass like some others. I often wonder if I’ll ever encounter another one, as I haven’t since. Hearing from all of you that have lets me know they are still alive and plentiful! Hopefully my next encounter will be more friendly than the last, and I’ll be more than happy to leave her be. 🙂

      September 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm

  14. Shane

    Just saw one in my back yard. I had let the dogs out to do their business and while sitting in my garage this bug just crept from one side of the porch and was walking all around it. I’d never seen one before so I just stomped around it until it went back into the grass because when I’m freaked out I have horrible aim with any part of my body. I immediately let the dogs in and am not going to let them back out until that boyscout master friend of mine comes back and does the simple boyscout killing technique to it and any others he finds. Thanks for putting up this blog. I didn’t know that they’re near invincible. Good thing I didn’t have the dogs play with it some.

    September 4, 2011 at 10:39 am

    • Bonnie

      You’re right it’s a real good thing the dogs didn’t play with it, you’d likely have been at the vet. So there’s another person out there that has horrible aim with their body parts when trying to kill a mutant insect? Hmm, makes me feel much better. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and for your comment, Shane.

      September 4, 2011 at 4:01 pm

  15. Mimi

    I just saw a bright red and black striped huge fuzzy ant. I googled it and found your blog. There were three of us teachers, and we all watched it crawl into the grass wondering what it was. The bright color gave me a hint that it was venomous, and we didn’t bother it, and now I’m going to make sure the groundskeepers know that we have these so the kids won’t be stung. Thanks for the public service!

    August 15, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    • Glad you all were okay, Mimi. I’ve seen one two other times since I posted this – I certainly will be mindful of going barefoot in the yard from now on.

      December 3, 2014 at 10:04 am

  16. Scary, Bonnie. I’m glad you were not stung. You go, girl! Kill ’em dead! I’m allergic to fire ants. Even though, I can’t resist stomping their mounds when I see one. They come running out to bite me to death, but I run like a deer. If I’d ever see one of those monsters you saw, I’d do exactly what you did. Blessings to you…

    November 25, 2014 at 10:17 am

    • Thanks, Carol Ann! They seem to be most prevalent in late summer into fall – at least that’s when I’ve came across them. Definitely a sight to behold!

      December 3, 2014 at 10:06 am

    • The fire ants cause welts like boils for me Carol. They certainly have a hold on Miami .

      August 13, 2015 at 1:36 pm

  17. Allie

    I ran into one of these years ago (2004) I saw it walking out of a neighbors driveway across the road and casually walk down our drive way. It then turned and walked up our walkway toward our front door. It suddenly turned and “ran” through the flowerbed and started up under the siding on the house. With it being outside I left it alone, and I’m glad I did. Within moments of it going under the siding, it came back out wrestling with a black widow spider. It actually killed the spider. After looking up what it was, it was fitting that it be called a cow killer because the house was built on a former cow pasture. I don’t fault you for killing it if it was coming toward you and being agressive as they can be dangerous. Thanks for sharing your story.

    June 4, 2015 at 11:12 pm

  18. Bridget

    I must say, I was just looking up velvet ants because I THOUGHT that might be what I just saw.

    And it was, a LARGE (over an inch) black and red mass of satan.


    My boyfriend and I are currently at a hotel. In the BAYOU. We step outside for a smoke. Take a seat in the lawn chairs.

    I look to my right and see Mrs. Satan and SCREAM bloody murder “WTF IS THAT!?!?!?!?!?” and my b.f. takes off while I stand in my chair to take a video of it.

    It scared the crap out of me. Bright colours= no no. Not to mention I am allergic to wasps. So I’m pretty sure getting stung wouldn’t have ended very well since the closest hospital is about 30 minutes away……

    July 15, 2015 at 8:52 pm

  19. We cause these critters lawyers.

    August 13, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    • Very true, Carl!

      August 13, 2015 at 10:35 pm

  20. Jennifer

    First poster for 2016 WOOHOO!! We recently moved to SC from the Northeast, and after killing the second one of those bitches in as many days on my pool deck, I thought it prudent to check the Google. I am so not into this bug. At all.

    July 28, 2016 at 8:26 pm

  21. Eric

    My kids and I just caught one of these things. They didn’t get close to it, and I made sure I didn’t either. I scooped it up with a piece of paper and didn’t let it get close to me. It is now safely resting in our bug jar. Very interesting to observe and we were surprised it was so fast! Glad for your blog, great to hear other people’s experiences with this! And like you said, when it screamed when they blew on it, I could scarcely believe it! Ours makes more of a squirrel chattering sound. Our dog is afraid of the sound that it makes, even though she is a good sized dog. Dogs are very intuitive. I have educated my kids on this dangerous insect, and I’m sure they will not touch it. Thanks for sharing!

    September 3, 2016 at 7:10 pm

  22. Hi blogger, i must say you have high quality content here.
    Your page should go viral. You need initial traffic boost
    only. How to get it? Search for: Mertiso’s tips go viral

    August 15, 2017 at 12:14 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s