Bee? Wasp? Ant? So are these ‘Cow Killers’ aka ‘Red Velvet Ants’ really ants? They are members of the Hymenoptera order of insects but are NOT ants, nor are they bees. They are a predatory wasp in the Mutillidae family. The males have wings and no stinger, and the females have a wicked stinger but no wings. The sting of the cow killer is said to be so painful it could kill a cow! In reality the name cow killer is a bit deceiving; although they are painful, the sting is not toxic or lethal to humans or animals. Given that they live on the ground, their stings are usually on the foot, so wear your boots!
One of the ‘old west’ stories that have been told, is that if your cow is stung by a cow killer, it is so painful, the cow will run around in circles until it finally trips and breaks a leg, causing the rancher to put the poor thing down.
The female cow killers live in fields, meadows, sandy areas, and forest edges where they can find ground nesting bees, chewing their way into the nest and laying their eggs among the bee pupa. When these baby cow killers hatch they will eat the bee pupa.
Thankfully they prefer a solitary life style, so it is unlikely that you will ever be chased by an entire herd. If you should have the unfortunate luck to meet up with one of these fuzzy insects, after the ‘screaming like a girl’ has ceased, treatment is fairly easy. Cold compress, a baking soda paste, keeping it clean and you can also use an antibiotic ointment to reduce the risk of infection. Bio-Tech would like for you to have a great time in the outdoors and remember to wear your boots!