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Posts tagged “Cow Killers

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