Authored by Rodney Southern in Nature and Wildlife
Published on 03-13-2009
Throughout the Southeastern United States, and occasionally in the northeastern parts of the Country, one can find a very unusual looking little monster. The cow killer ant, or Eastern Velvet ant, is actually not an ant at all. The cow killer ant is actually a wasp, though it looks like an ant in general appearance and movement. Unlike most ants, however, this wasp is covered with colorful bristles or hairs that are bright orange, red, and white and form a marked pattern on the entire body. This bright appearance is a clear sign that it should be avoided.
The cow killer ant is relatively small at around an inch in length, but it packs some serious punch in it’s small frame. The sting of the cow killer ant is the inspiration for it’s unique name. It is said that the sting of the cow killer ant can actually kill a cow, though that is likely an exaggeration. Dead cow or not, the sting is ferocious and painful. It is also potentially deadly for humans that are allergic or prone to anaphylactic shock episodes with insects. Young children, and the elderly are also especially vulnerable to the sting of the cow killer ant.
The cow killer ant is commonly found in meadows, or along the edge of the woods in areas where flowers are available. They are particularly fond of clover fields. This is largely due to the fact that they lay their eggs in bumblebee nests that can be readily found in these areas. When the larvae emerge, they eat the bumblebee larvae and prosper. These wasps are quite strong and have no problems handling the bumblebees.
While the cow killer ants are not as common as some of the other bees in North America, they are more common than one may think. If you encounter one of these insects, you should give it a wide berth. They are extremely quick and powerful, and they will not hesitate to sting you if you give them half the chance. They are also commonly found in close proximity to one another. You can often find more than one, and extreme care should be taken when you do.
For those that have bee allergies, are any problems with insects, you are especially at risk. The sting is extremely painful regardless, but the allergic reactions can be quite dangerous if you are so inclined. People in poor health, or the sick are also in a high risk group to have problems with cow killer ant stings. The vast majority of cow killer ant stings, however, are simply a really painful lesson.
Most stings are a result of people getting too close to them. Cow killer ants are actually very beautiful to look at, and they seem quite harmless as they dart along the ground. Keep in mind that they are very powerful little insects, and that they should be left alone.