To each his own. To me my own.

Cow Killers – the Red Velvet Ant revisited

Here at wordpress we’re fortunate enough to have a stats feature that informs us of our most-read posts. I personally find this feature useful, and in paying close attention to it for the past month, have found one post that supersedes all others by a mile. It is the post I wrote on my experience with the Red Velvet Ant.

I had never seen one prior to that one instance. At the time, it’s mere image was so unrealistically startling that I questioned whether or not I was dreaming. I haven’t ran across another one since then, which if I never do again it’ll be too soon… but apparently  a LOT of you out there are coming in contact with them this summer. The google search terms that people use to find information on them are plentiful, which lets me know they are still very much alive and well.

The insect coined the name ‘Cow Killers’ because when cows graze, they often pull the grass up by the roots, and sometimes attached to it is a less than friendly red velvet ant. The insect will then crawl up the nostril or face of the cow and sting it. Although ten times more powerful than that of a red ant, it’s a myth that it’s sting is lethal enough to kill a cow, unless of course there are multiple attacks. The female Cow Killers are wingless, which is what I encountered. They crawl around the ground looking for the holes of other bugs such as ground-nesting bees. They’ll infiltrate the nest, find a cocoon and eat a hole in it, then deposit an egg. When it hatches, it then feeds on the bee larva. Amazingly enough the insect is born as white, legless grub and will go through many stages before metamorphing into fuzzy Red Velvet Ants.

Here’s a very informative video on this most interesting insect which is really a wasp. This lady is well-informed and shares some very useful information on this most intriguing insect.

Click here for a short informative video on the Cow Killer

Photos © Kim Hosen;Merrimac Farm Wildlife Management Area, Nokesville, VA; September 2009

9 responses

  1. I have never seen or heard of this insect before until viewing your post. What a startling discovery! I’ll definitely watch that movie, if only to find out their range.

    July 28, 2010 at 10:11 am

    • Bonnie

      It’s definitely the most unique insect I’ve ever seen! But I still maintain that insects just are not meant to scream…

      July 29, 2010 at 4:47 pm

  2. I was once swarmed by fire ants while camping. I will never forget it. They attacked me at night! I thought I walked into some kind of splintered glass that was cutting up my legs! If I ever see anything that looks like the red velvet ant, you can be sure I will run.

    July 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    • Bonnie

      That’s horrible, Carol – I for sure would have freaked out. Yes you’ll do well to run away from this thing – but make sure you run fast. During my encounter, as soon as it saw me it charged me, and boy was she FAST. That’s when I heard it screaming. I had already committed with the bug spray at that point – I’d kill it again if I had a do-over, I simply couldn’t give that little abomination the chance to come in my house and visit. LOL

      July 29, 2010 at 4:55 pm

  3. I’m bit of a bug magnet of sorts. While I do get bitten by ants on a daily basis since moving into this house, I don’t ever, want to come across this ant/wasp!

    August 1, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    • Bonnie

      I abhor bugs of any species, and have a deep admiration for those who don’t totally ‘freak out’ in their presence. Which usually I don’t… but this one, well…

      August 2, 2010 at 11:06 pm

  4. Tairy Fales

    I had seen two of these red velvet ants in Texas at our lake place as a child. Then, 20 years goes by, and I see one this year (2010) at a reptile show in Florida. Then, this past weekend while in Ocala National Forrest, I saw two of them! WOW! They are beautiful to watch, and I hear their bites are extremely painful.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    • Bonnie

      Hi Tairy,

      I now know of four persons that have been ‘stung’ by this wasp, and each case details extreme pain from the sting. The new searches on the species continue to amaze me, which seem to occur from late July ’til now (Sept 23 on…), which means their mature stage occurs in late summer. I’ve only had the one encounter, but would welcome another, as long as it’s one of longer-distance. 🙂

      September 23, 2010 at 11:55 pm

  5. Amazingly beautiful creation of GOD!! God assigned certain job to every creation….We surely are here to do what he has planned already!! never saw this before…

    April 1, 2011 at 10:53 am

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