Cow Killer (Dasymutilla occidentalis)
Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Cow Killer.
Updated: 2/26/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Velvety hairs in bright red and black are clear visual warnings on the Cow Killer that should give one pause before touching.
The Eastern Velvet Ant - also known as the Cow Killer - is not an ant at all, though it looks and walks like one. The Cow Killer is actually a type of wasp and the wingless female has a ferocious sting that is rumored to be strong enough to kill cattle. To humans, the sting is extremely painful and this insect should not be handled. Males have wings and look more like a typical wasp despite some hairs on their body. The Cow Killer is a solitary wasp, more likely to be seen alone than in nests with hundreds of others.
This wasp species is parasitic to bumble bees. Females lay eggs in a bumble bee hive. Once the wasp's eggs hatch, the wasp larvae eat the larvae of the bumble bee. Adults drink nectar.
Cow Killers can be found in fields, meadows, sandy areas, lawns, and at the edges of forests. They are typically most active at dusk or during the night. Look for females on the ground.