The Cow Killer, also known as Red Velvet Ant

Cow KillerI’m not walking in the garden without shoes again.  Today I saw a Cow Killer as I weeded in my bare feet.  I called for mister gardener to quickly bring me my camera because the insect moves fast.  Named Red Velvet Ant for the fine layer of hairs on the body, it is also called Cow Killer for the venomous punch it packs when it stings.  Actually, it is not an ant at all but one of the 475 species of Velvet Ant parasitic wasps in North America.  The winged male does not sting but the wingless female, usually nocturnal, wanders the flower garden dining on nectar while searching for the tunnels of ground-nesting wasps, especially the cicada wasp.  The female Velvet Ant will sneak into the tunnel and lay eggs on the host larva which the Velvet Ant young will consume after hatching. She has a nearly indestructible exoskeleton which protects her from the sting of the cicada wasp should they meet in the ground nest.

cow killer

The Cow Killer is a solitary wasp and does not live in a colony or have a nest of her own.  She is not aggressive and will try to escape if disturbed.  Interestingly, she does make a sound.  As a child, I would touch one with a twig just to hear the tiny squeak it made.  These beautiful wasps are not numerous and cause no damage to plants. No chemical control is needed.  Teach others about them, appreciate them, and leave them alone as they have a purpose in keeping the bee and wasp population in check.  My advice: Simply defend yourself against a painful sting and wear shoes in the garden.

Red Velvet Ant

See September 12:  “A Red Velvet Ant Stops in for Lunch”

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester

326 thoughts on “The Cow Killer, also known as Red Velvet Ant

    • I saw one of these on my deck yesterday. 9/6/2009. I live in northern MD and have never seen one of these before. I’ve never heard of them until today when we googled them.
      What should I use on my deck and surrounding to keep them away? I have a dog that goes in the yard.

      • The Red Velvet Ant will spend much of her time wandering over bare soil, looking for hosts to deposit her one or two eggs on a cocoon or pupa of ground-nesting bees, wasps or some other insects.

        Occasionally she will accidentally wander into garages or through cracks around doors. Where you see one does not mean there is a concentration or nest of them. These are solitary insects with no nest.

        The best control of Red Velvet Ants is to plant grass to deter the ground-nesting wasps and bees. If you must kill one, either crush her with a thick soled shoe or use a wasp aerosol spray.

      • I live in Western Kentucky. I found 3 of these insects in the last week. I am not so much concerned about myself,but I am worried about my dog and cat.

      • You could have seen 3 different females or perhaps you saw the same female 3 different times. They are fast. It’s possible that dogs could be stung by that wasp or any wasp, especially if they try to trap or play with the insect. My labs spent their days outdoors in Virginia but were never stung.

      • Oh my gosh! I just saw one of these for the first time EVER in my life. I, too, live IN MARYLAND!! IT FREAKED ME OUT SO BAD! It was huge and terrifying. I have never seen anything like that before in my life. It scared me so bad I just kept hitting it with a bottle. It wouldn’t DIE!
        I know that sounds horrible of me, just killing it for no reason. But I have a 2 year old who’s always outside and after reading this, I am glad I did.
        But It wouldn’t die. It broke in half and then got up and still crawled away dragging the other half behind it using a twig. OMG

      • It would be a slim chance you would run into another one soon. The Baltimore Aquarium used to have a live one on display, i saw one there.

    • For the people that are saying these are solitary animals, you are wrong. You need to follow the female, because 9 times out of 10 she is going back to the nest. Which they do have, by the way. They take over ground wasp nests and the female lays her eggs in the empty spaces. It’s not uncommon to see 3 or 4 males flying around a single area. In order to understand this species of wasp, you need to observe it. Not just read about it. Any spray that works on bees or wasps will take care of this species. But you have to find the nest, or spray it directly on the female.

      • You mean “for the people WHO are saying these…THEY are wrong.” Other than that, nice chilly post.

      • Good Lord, just rewrite the whole sentence. Better yet this whole worthless scree: the information given is wrong. These ARE solitary animals, and the wingless females spend their lives wandering about searching for the single holes wherein lie the eggs of a parasitic wasp (probably with a stunned caterpillar), or beetle, etc., upon which to lay her own eggs.This wasp doe NOT use old nests.
        It is important to know your information as thoroughly as possible before imparting your scholarship to to the public, or –ESPECIALLY– refuting the knowledge of another. You need to “apply” this advice before adding further condescending comments. Sincerely, Dr. V. P. Wentworth-Longueil, MSc applied entomology, Cambridge UK, PHd insect population ecology, same.

      • I am a biologist in Texas and these wasps ARE solitary. You are misunderstanding the word “solitary.” Solitary in the biological sense means they only associate with others of their species during mating season, or if they are the female’s young. They have their own individual nests, and do nest as a community, making them SOLITARY. Seeing three or four males together does not qualify as a nesting community, or evidence of a social insect (such as carpenter bees or bumblebees) and these males are not cooperating, but instead competing for a female to mate with.

      • You are wrong they are totally solitary if you follow one the nest it goes to is a preexisting ground wasp nest or a cicada wasp nest they do not colonize i have studied them for years as well as raised a few ….

    • I just came across one in Charlotte nc omg it was fast… Had to kill it very scarey…snake yesterday… Must be all the rain this summer !!!!

    • I just found one of these while I was exercising outside without no shoes when I seen this I quickly ran to get this cender block and smash it on this bug thinking to myself that wasn’t a normal bug I just making sure there no more of those ant looking wasp

  1. I saw one of these “beauties” today (7/13/2009). I am in the Richmond area. It is quite rare to see them. I am wondering if you know where they are coming from? It’s strange because I have seen about 1 a year (late summer) for the past 4 years (but I didn’t see any last year). I just find it odd…

    • I’m not a entomologist but I know that populations of insects fluctuate, sometime dramatically, depending on environmental factors. I’ve seen these velvet ants in the sandy ground around Gloucester my whole life, but there are probably a host of conditions that could trigger a rise in red velvet ants in an area just like high rainfall increases the number of mosquitoes. Possibly an increase in the number of host wasps, loss of ground cover due to construction or other reasons, or favorable climate circumstances could affect numbers. The host bumblebees and wasps usually nest in bare ground so some suggest overseeding grass as a deterrent to ground bees and wasps. But usually with insects, there is a cyclic population peak over time, then a drop in numbers. You may want to contact your Cooperative Extension agent for answers if you are having problems. There is no nest to treat so I find it’s best to let these “beauties” be.

  2. I live in Delaware north of Dover and these little guys are becoming quite common. We see them about once a week in the summer months.

    • That is interesting. Is there anything in the environment that has changed where you are seeing them? I remember one year at the beach as a child we saw more of them and we all wore shoes that summer. But it was back to normal the next year. Your comment has motivated me to contact our extension agent and an entomologist to see if more are being seen on the East Coast.

      • I live in SC and see them all the time in my yard….just this weekend I sprayed 4 males!!! I usually step on and kill 6-7 females each summer. I wish I could figure out why we have soooo many. We have a small child and 2 dogs that play in the yard all the time. I am always on velvet ant alert here and hate it!

  3. I have one of these right now in a bottle .. wasn’t sure what it was had to look it up so I caught it … Guess I will go put it back where I got it from and leave it to do what it does best…. I’ll keep my shoes on….lol

      • We live in Va., but I am from Augusta Ga. and N. Augusta, S.C. Growing up, we always called these cow ants. When my family and I were down in Grovetown, Ga. (next to Augusta) this summer we saw several of these “ants”. My children are budding entymologists, so we captured one to bring home in order to present to their classes and hopefully educate them. Was I surprised when I started to research and found out the true story of our ant. Now I’m kind of sorry I killed it, but I am still planning to let my children use it to educate their peers, so maybe its death can be for good. Thank you for such an informative site. By the way, my husband (who is from Va.) had never seen one of these until I brought it home.

  4. Hi, I live in Huntsville Alabama and I just saw one of these. It now makes sense. the wasp and bees seem to be taking over this year so I am educated and not so scared now. ( I will just keep an eye on my dogs and cat)

    • Bridget, the red velvet ant is usually nocturnal but may be seen on cloudy days or at dusk. The day this one appeared, it was dark and overcast. When did you see yours?

      As a youngster, I had no idea what the insect was but the bright red seemed to warn me of danger and I never touched one, except with a little twig. I wonder if animals would sense danger if they saw one. The more I learn, the more I question.

      • Well I live in houston texas, and when we see them it’s during the middle of the day in the heat.

      • I must admit that I have seen them in the middle of the day, too. Both males and females. Are they common there?

      • I’m not sure how common they are here in houston, but i do know that i have never seen one until about three years ago, and i’ve seen about 2 a year since then. i saw one crawling on the driveway and the other few were in the back yard in the grass. and it has always been in the summer when it’s like 100 degrees out.

      • It makes you wonder if the Texas drought the last 3 years has something to do with your sightings.

      • I live in N.E. Texas. We have seen several of these in our yard, which is sandy. Our small dog had a rather painful introduction to them about an hour ago. I can remember seeing them in Arkansas when I was a child.

  5. I saw my first red velvet ant today in Murfreesboro, TN. I took a few photos of it too. It wasn’t easy to photograph because it never stopped moving, like it was on a mission. I let it go on its merry way, happy afterwards that it wasn’t some kind of queen termite or something that would eat my house.

  6. I saw one for the first time yesterday and had no idea what it was. So I looked it up and here I am. I live in East TN. I was day time not night or close to sunset. It has been very rainy this summer but not on this praticular day. Very pretty creatures but I will not be going barefoot anymore after hearing about those painful stings.

      • i live in middle tn my self, and i have been seeing these lately as well…. During the day, not at dusk or dawn, but at like 3 in the afternoon. And its not in in the shade, but out in the open. We don’t have sandy soil here its more clay than anything really….

  7. I am so glad I saw this website. We have had one of these little bugs running around in my flowerbed for quite some time. Today while I was out there she looked as if she was on a mission to find something, which made me even more curious to find out what this unusual bug was – at first I thought it was a beetle. I live in Dallas Texas and right above my flowerbed has been a nest of wasps that we have been fighting with for quite some time. All this information was very helpful and makes alot of sense.🙂 For now, I am thankful for this little creature as long as m kids don’t get stung.

  8. I came across one today in Beaumont, TX. It was right outside of my office building. We are right next to some fields and wooded land so I guess it just wandered over here. It kept shooting its stinger out. That thing looks painful.

      • I just saw one of the females for the first time in my life, just as I let my dogs out and stepped out on my deck to admire my roses. I have been reading through these posts and have yet to come across anyone who has sen them in Kentucky. I live in a rural town called Flaherty, Kentucky. My family and I moved further into the country about 2 years ago and I am still fascinated by the different types of insects and animals I come across! It is the middle of the day, 1:30pm EST, on a very hot and dry September day. The name “Cow-Killer” scared me, I will be sure not to disturb this little lady!

      • These solitary wasps are in Kentucky and mostly seen during July, August and September according to the University of Kentucky extension service. The wingless females are non-aggressive but can sting but the winged males do not have stingers.

      • I moved into a brand new house 2 years ago and saw one red female. The next year I saw the sandy holes at the base of a shrub next to my front door and more red ones. This summer, there are black flying ‘wasps’ flying all around the bush…I’m wondering if I should just spray them. If what I’m reading is true, and they are males that do not sting, I don’t care if they’re flying around just doing their ‘nature’ jobs… Any ideas or thoughts? I don’t want me or any of my guests getting stung; they are flying all around the front steps. However, if they’re just flying about, it won’t really matter…hmmm

      • It sounds like you have the males flying around looking for females. The males do not sting. To verify whether you are seeing the winged male wasp, google images for male red velvet ant.

  9. For the first time I saw one of these Red Velvet Ants, it was in Orange, Va. in the middle of the day. It was on our pebbled walk. I was fascinated by its beauty and bright red color as well as its size. Having been told anything in nature that is red is dangerous and not to be trusted i tried to kill it. It was not easy. Now that I have read your articles and the blogs I am ashamed of myself for having killed it. Thank you for your articles. I have not seen any more of them.

    • Beese, I’m not sure why I appreciate insects as I do but I know I have a lot more to learn. I’m so glad you took the time to find out about the Red Velvet Ant. Pass on the knowledge!

  10. A machinist came in the office yesterday to show us a “huge hairy ant” he had captured out in the shop (Newport News). I very timidly approached the box, recognized it and squealed “It’s a cow killer”! Everyone looked stunned and disbelieving until I pulled up your blog and printed the page. The machinist was happy to take the cow killer and your article home for his family to see and read about. Your knowledge keeps spreading. Thanks!

    • NWM, Thanks for passing on information about these beautiful insects. I hope he was careful not to be stung and I do hope he released her. As an experiment, he could have dropped a bit of nectar into the jar to see if she would eat before she was released. Judging from my experience, she’d dive in!

  11. Hi…I live in Shreveport, La and I have seen quite a few of these (male and female) around the front landscaping of my home. I am really glad that I looked at this b/c I have learned alot. We have been having issues with Cicadas for the past 3 years so I am now glad to see these red and black critters wandering around. Thanks.

  12. I live in Delanco New Jersey i just ran into one of these wasps. It was a female walking across my pool deck. Are they common for this area?

    • I’ve been told by our Virginia Extension Agent that they are being seen more in your state but I don’t think they are common yet.

  13. Richmond, va – 6:30 pm, and just found your site. I was spooked by it due to the bright color, but came back and it was gone. In grass & perennials by our fish pond, moving quickly, and I’m sure it was looking for a nest to head into! Thanks for all the great info!

  14. I watched one of these roam around near the river in Charlottesville (in Riverview Park). It was freakishly fast and I had no idea what it was. Glad I didn’t touch it!

    • The bright red with black is a warning and you instinctively hesitated. Two days ago I encountered a black widow spider…. same colors, black with a bright red hourglass, a big warning.

  15. Just saw my first ‘cow killer’ yesterday and caught it in a jar. Never saw one of those before. I guess they are spreading in Virginia now (near Port Royal). I will let it go back in the garden, and start wearing shoes when I go tomato picking. Thanks!

    • She dines on nectar in the garden. If you’d dropped a little sugar water soaked tissue or cloth into the jar, I bet she would have feasted upon it.

  16. I’m not sure about the part about these guys being solitary insects. I was looking these up because at any given time during the past few days you can see 10+ winged on my back porch and usually the same amount of wingless.

    • It’s amazing that you have so many red velvet ants. You must have the ideal environment. I’m interested in knowing where you live and the type soil you have.

      These insects are classified as solitary wasps, meaning they don’t live in colonies. They are considered beneficial as they perform a predatory function. However, if numbers of these wasps are causing a danger, any wasp aerosol poison will be effective (note: males do not have stingers). Since they depend on ground nesting bees and wasps for their life cycle, the most effective method of control is eliminating large areas of bare soil to prevent ground nesting bees and wasps.

      I wonder if you are seeing something to do with mating. I’ve read that some believe pheromones may attract males while others believe the tiny rasping sound she makes attracts the males. Mating lasts a few seconds, then the females are off on their quest for a ground nesting site for her young.

  17. Saw one today in southern Illinois, sunny day on heavy clay soil. She was in a hurry, as some have said “on a mission”!
    I let her go her merry way. After reading about the sting, I’m glad I chose to leave her be.

  18. Fort Payne, Al (NE corner of the state). I saw one today on my patio. My children run around in my yard barefooted on a regular basis, so I was thankful when my dad, with his hard-soled shoes, squished it.

    That may be the unpopular and not recommended move, but it will keep my kids from being stung by it.

    I wonder if I have more around.

    Also, I have been absolutely swarmed by “June bugs” this year. I wonder if they are also prey for the red velvet ant.

    • I think you could be on to something there. I read somewhere that she will lay eggs on grubs. In Virginia, we have an abundance of June bugs this summer and have seen more Red Velvet Ants. Maybe there is a connection.

      • I live in Williamsburg Va. And saw my first red velvet ant today, what a surprise for me. I had never see one before, wow what a beauty. Just came in and looked it up, thanks for all the information.

  19. I have never seen one of these until today. It was in State Farm Virginia. I was standing in the parking lot of my job speaking to a co-worker and it was moving real fast across the parking lot. I thought it was an ant until i read up on it but she was huge and beautiful (fire engine red with black stripes). Now there are cows around my job so maybe this explains why she is running through the parking lot hehehe.

    • As I remember, State Farm is near Goochland VA. I’m beginning to put pins on a map now. I am seeing more of these wasps this summer. But as another reader observed, she is seeing more June beetles. My daughter in Kentucky is seeing more cidada wasps. I think it’s all related to the increase in the velvet ants who may lay eggs on larvae of ground insects.

  20. I was at a friend’s house near St. Michaels, MD this past weekend and we found two red velvet ants within an hour of each other. Both were in heavy grassy areas and were probably stirred up by some guys mowing the grass. Their house is next to a heavily wooded area of tall pines and I suspect the soil is marine clay with a thin layer of organic material over it. Neither one had wings and we caught both for my friend’s son to inspect because he loves bugs. The cicadas are out full force in that area and the regular wasps seem to be everywhere so it makes sense we would see two in one day. I have to say they are beautiful and unusual bugs! Thanks for all the helpful info about them…doubt we can persuade their son to wear shoes though…his Dad never wears them either!

    • St. Michaels is not too far from me… as the crow flies. I am seeing more this summer, too. Yesterday I was pulling weeds (without gloves!) and out crawled a female red velvet ant from beneath the roots of the weed. I assume she finds shelter during the heat of the day, but I’m realizing that the more I learn about them, the less I really know.

  21. I have seen 4 of these in the past week. We live in the Piedmont Triad area of NC. 2 were up on our patio (different days) one in our pool area, and the other in mulch. My neighbor killed 2 yesterday in their yard.These terrify me! Do you know if any child (toddler) or small animals (dog/cat) has died from a sting?
    I am not sorry to say that I killed 3 out of the 4.

    • I have never heard of a death of a child or animal but I cannot state that as fact. I would kill the wingless females if I found several around small children to prevent a painful sting. A good source of information is your North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service where entomologists can answer your questions. This is the time for cicadas and cicada wasps and other ground nesting insects so naturally the predators follow. It’s a natural cycle that helps to control populations.

  22. We have had these around my house (near Pocahontas State Park) since about 1996, if I remember correctly. I believe we called the state extension office who told us they were not in the area. They were easy to identify since we had just been to the National Zoo where they had an exhibit. I actually saw one as late as last year, but have since moved from the area.

  23. Would it help track these bugs more accurately if we started supplying the latitude/longitude for each location? Most of the next cell phones have that capability. Might provide some interesting info over time.

  24. I saw my first Red Velvet Ant today! She was huge crawling in the rocks on the bank to the water where I live on Lake Gaston near Bracey, VA. She was moving fast and I chased her for a bit to get a couple good pictures then let her scamper back down the rocks towards the water. Very cool insect… I’ve seen lots of bumble bees around this year too.

  25. My son and I discovered one this morning in our garden here in middle Tennessee. I told him we should leave it until we find out what it’s doing in the garden. If it’s taking care of the ground wasps and other larvae, she can stay!

  26. I have seen two of these this week. They are in my garden area. I am mostly worried about my two dogs. One is 18lbs., the other 65lbs. This is where we let them out.

    I live in Edinburgh, IN. which is about 35 miles south of Indianapolis.

    • It could be the same insect and you saw it twice. Their territory isn’t too large. My two dogs have never been stung but if you worry, step on it with heavy shoes or use a wasp/bee spray. Remember that the same insecticide will kill other bees so be careful.

  27. I’m building a house in NC and have seen 3-4 of these a day for the last month or so. There’s a lot of exposed clay around the excavation that bees and wasps have been burrowing in all summer so it must have attracted them. They look like they should be out in the Amazon somewhere, very striking.

    I’m glad I looked them up though, I had no idea they were wasps. And it’s good to know they can back up their intimidating looks, I’ll be even more careful now around them.

      • I’m north of the Raleigh area, so central NC. My sightings of the ants are starting to taper off a bit the last week, only seeing about 1 a day and none today. Could be the weather starting to change (hope so, it’s been hot!)

      • Noah, I think you’re right. Sightings are less frequent now as summer winds down. I have not seen one in a few weeks.

  28. Saw my first velvet ant (actually two) this past weekend. We were camping on the bank of the Rappahannock river in Fredericksburg, Va. I went to pick it up, but I immediately noticed the stinger, so I decided to scoop it up in a cup to get a better look. Very pretty creature, but I’ll be watching where I step in the future.

    • Another tack on the location map… I’m so glad you did not pick it up. If you had not seen the stinger, were the bright red/black colors an instinctive caution or danger sign for you?

  29. I am building a home in Selbyville, DE and saw two of them. I never saw anything like it. My neighbor told me they are hard to kill and have a bad sting. He called them ground hornets. Now I know what they are and will watch out for them.

  30. I saw this Velvet Ant for the 1st time today! I live in Maryville,TN about 40min. from Smokey Mnt. State Park. I really think after reading about where they like to live- that we are seeing them around our new patio,because the conditions and soil are right for them. We added a new patio last year-with stone pavers and river rock. The base of the pavers & rock is sand. So,given that–I’m not sure there is anything to do about changing our patio climate. We do get wasps around our house-and have to spray in our attic every spring. Our natural soil in our part of TN is clay based usually. Probably why we never saw them till this year.

    • Do you worry about them around your patio? We have seen a few around our patio over the years. Several years ago we allowed a young niece to capture a female to take home to Wisconsin for a science study. Half way home, she held up an empty jar. “Where’s my cow killer?” she asked. Immediately her father pulled the car to the berm of the road. A complete search of the car, pulling out seats, luggage, etc. turned up nothing. When they arrived home, there it appeared from a crack in the seat. They were very lucky no one was stung.

      • Yes, I do worry about them around our patio. But we almost alway (99% of time) wear shoes outside & will now 100%. I was glad to read that they don’t have colonies–I’d be very scared if there was a nest of them growing. We have a 3yr. old–but she is very scared of bugs (so she would never pick it up out of curiosity as some kids might). But I worry she might accidently sit down or put her hand on one. But I”m hoping they move away fast,,when they hear someone near. I would have to kill one if I see it again–but they are very pretty creatures,,a shame to feel the need to kill them. But safety of my kid is first.

  31. Saw a red velvet ant Saturday at the Norfolk, VA Botanical Gardens. It was walking along a piece of wood in sandy soil; late afternoon; wooded area. We paused to watch it a moment, amazed at the brilliance of its color and how big it was. It has been an unusually hot year with lots of mosquitos, so I’m sure the ant / wasp is thriving.

    • The Botanical Gardens are about an hour from me. There seem to be more of the insects than when I was a child. But this needs to be confirmed by an entomologist. I think it’s time to contact our extension agent again.

  32. I saw one for the first time yesterday here in Williamsburg, VA. I thought it was an ant, tracked it for a little bit and tried to take a picture with my cell phone but it was moving too quickly!

    My friend walking with me had never seen one before either and we are both long-time Virginians. As we walked along the sidewalk we were looking down to see if we would see another and we actually did but it was different. The first one was like the one in your picture with a brilliant red color stripe and it was quite large (an inch or so). The second one was almost half its size and it appeared to have two red dots on its body but was the same color.

    Immediately after returning from the walk I started looking up information and found out what it was and even found some videos of them on YouTube. I keep talking about it and here it is a night later and I’m still talking about it!

    I’m so thankful I didn’t pick it up as I was thinking about trapping it to ask an entomologist but it was too fast and heading in a different direction.

    • Hi Mina, I grew up in Williamsburg and rarely saw them. But when we vacationed at the beach. there they were. I never tried to pick one up but would touch her with a twig to hear her little squeak.

      However, I once stepped on a huge cicada killer wasp with bare feet and the sting was horrendous. When you have lots of cicadas, you will have predators, and those predators will have predators. Nature’s food plan works great!

      I wondered whether your smaller red velvet ant was young. I read recently that sizes of the wasp depend on the size of the host insect.

  33. I live in Central Virginia and spotted this insect a few years ago. I thought it came in with mulch. I researched it and was concerned because I have a kitty who loves to walk the landscape. I immediately found this insect difficult to kill due to their fast movement and hard shell-like bodies.

    This site put things together today, as I have many Cicada Wasps here this summer nesting in my front mulched pathway. Cicadas are not a burden here this year, yet I had the pleasure of observing one wasp dragging a cicada into its tunnel. These wasps are benificial and reduce cicadas, yet the Velvet Ant will interfere with the CW population.

    I will continue to dispense with the Velvet Ant, as its sting is not welcome in my landscape. The Cicada Wasp is elegant and non- hostile, so I will let it continue, only hoping it nests elsewhere next year, so I will not need to re-mulch that path again.

    Nature and her creatures never fail to amaze me.

    • Diane, I agree. Nature and her creatures never fail to amaze me either. Nature has a very effective master plan so I hesitate to interfere with the cycle of either insect. Both insects are solitary and quite non-aggressive and elegant. The sting of the cicada wasp is pretty horrific, too, as I’ve been stung once when I accidentally stepped on one with bare feet. Hope I can watch my step from now on.

  34. My kids and I were at the park on Sunday and saw a velvet ant walking across the pebbled playground. It made its way thru the grass and onto the cemented stones and walkway. I followed it for about 10 minutes before it disappeared into the woods. I live in the northwest region of Georgia. I was intrigued by the colors but didn’t dare to get close enough. I did take a a few pictures of it. The ant was huge!!

    • Delia, They are becoming pretty scarce in our area. I haven’t seen one in a few weeks. I’m curious about the size of the one you saw. Can you estimate the size?

  35. Moultrie, GA 9/13/10

    My little brother spotted this little critter outside, yelling “Oh my god, look at that HUGE ant!” I tried to take pics of it but it moved too fast so I had to catch it, I mistakenly named her Roger. it’s kinda funny because my little sister automatically called her Daphne. Well, I’m glad to know these aren’t dangerous, I’m going to release Daphne right now.
    While I was reading the comments I saw that it’s common for them to be seen on overcast days, but I found mine around 5:00 or so, and it was sunny.

    Thank you for the info, I felt like a detective, though I was slightly disappointed I hadn’t just discovered a new species, I’m grateful for the knowledge.

  36. We were on a hike in OK, a rocky stream and saw one scurry under a rock 10 feet away from where we were sitting for a water break. After a few seconds it scurried towards my BF really fast as if it was trying to “get on his foot”. His reaction was to throw water on it and it hissed at him loud and ran the other way. Was amazed at how HUGE this thing was and beautiful. At first it looked like a beetle since it was so large. But now I see it’s a wasp from the description above. The other thing tracking us on our hike was a HUGE White-headed Vulture – the joke was it was waiting for the “cow killer” to bite us.

    • This is a funny tale that ended well, thank goodness. It seems late in the season to be seeing the wasp. Around here they’ve all gone underground. Every now and then I’ll pull up a dead shrub and up will come one from the roots.

  37. Well I’m glad I finally know what this is. I live in Woodruff, SC and in the 12 – 13 years I’ve lived here I have only seen this insect about 2 – 3 times. Always thought they were pretty and fast. Tried stepping on one once but the ground was fairly sandy so I wasn’t successful. But now that I know what they are, the next time I see one I’ll just look and take a few pics rather than try to touch.

  38. We are trying to find out how to rid our yard of the red velvet ant. Also, we have a serious problem with “ground” bees. They have over run our front yard.

    • The red velvet ant young feeds on the larva of the ground bees. They do help to control the ground bee population. Ground bees seek out bare soil to dig nests. One solution is to plant grass in bare spots.

      If you have a county extension agent, that would be the best source for good advice on safe chemical control. Please be careful as many good insects will be affected as well.

  39. So, the kids and I saw two males in our veggie garden today! Wondered what it was and ended up getting great info here! Thanks!

    I got some great pics that I’ll be posting on my blog soon. But, my question is…if we saw two males does that mean there are a ton of females in my yard? I’m only worried for my kids and puppy! And will certainly be making sure the kids wear shoes outside! We’ll have to pay closer attention to see if we see females.

    Otherwise, YAY for controlling the wasps!! They are often a problem for us here in SE Louisiana!

    • I can’t answer that question. They are so colorful that they can usually be seen… especially in sandy bare soil where ground bees nest. I have not seen one female this season!

  40. We have lived at our present location in SW Ga for 9 years. This is the first year I have seen any Red Velvet ants ( Cow Killers ). In the last few months I have seen 2 consistently off our back porch then I saw a very large one about 50 yards from the 2 regulars and most recently a very small one near the front of our house. We are plagued by yellow jackets, who do not take kindly to having their nest run over by the riding mower (ouch). One could only hope the velvet ants could help us out a bit with this problem.

  41. Saw a female in our driveway in Millen, GA on July 4. Kind of scary looking but I’m glad to know what it is and how to avoid it.

  42. Wow! Thanks for the helpful hint. I will definitely wear shoes when weeding. Also, I am very, very impressed by the number of people everywhere who are reading your wonderful blog!!!! Please keep up your good work!!!!

  43. Have seen 2 females this week in our yard in Williamsburg, Va. Have never seen one before! I’m glad they keep other wasps/bees under control, but I am a little worried about the sting b/c it’s hard to keep my twin 2-year-olds in their shoes outside.

  44. I walked out my back door this morning and to my surprise I see this “red ant” running across my patio and into the grass. I’ve always been a city girl and just moved outside the city a few weeks ago. I’m still not far from Nashville, but I’ve never seen one of these before. I ran back inside to grab my camera and it was gone within seconds. I have learned my lesson and I will start wearing shoes every time I walk outside my house. I’d love to catch one just to get a few good pictures. Has anyone else seen them in Gallatin, TN??

  45. I saw one of these at Ft Campbell Ky yesterday. My daughter looked down and said ” woah! what is that?!” I looked and said “yikes! I have no idea!” I grabbed my cell phone to take a picture but was unsuccessful. It was too fast and then went under my car. We waited and watched for it to crawl out but it never did. It just disappeared…

  46. I came acess one of these red velvet ants yesterday. at first i thought it was a spider, i followed it, and squashed it with my flip flop…today, my father is out in his gardne and comes across one and it stings him. I took a picture of it and then researched the ant.

    I have lived in Virginia Beach for 19 years and have never seen one of these.

  47. I live in Midlothian, VA and have seen three adult females in a week. I had never seen one of these before and the bright red color made me very uneasy. My 25 lb boston terrier/pug mix unfortunately got stung by one of the females while we were on a walk the other day. I am curious as to how long I will have to be on the lookout for these velvet ants. How long to they usually stick around for?

    • I think it’s unusual that I live 50 miles east of you on the coast with sandy soil and I’ve not spotted one red velvet ant this summer. This habitat seems ideal for the wasp and they just aren’t here this year.

      I have read one report that said they die soon after laying their eggs. I read another report that said one lived in captivity for 6 months before it died. Another report said they live under a year. If anyone knows the answer to the question of how long the red velvet ant lives, I hope they will post it here.

  48. i just saw one in my back yard, i live in houston texas and its 100 degrees out and around 11;am. and very sunny. she was crawling around in the grass and i noticed her right away. i came in to look it up to see what it was, and am reading about how thier stings hurt. so if you get stung do you need to go to the hospital?

    • All wasp stings are painful, this one included. A hospital visit isn’t necessary unless an allergic reaction to the sting develops. Most people have localized swelling and pain but a small percentage of the population may need emergency care if a wasp, bee or fire ant’s sting causes a severe reaction.

  49. Just when I thought I had seen it all! I saw one of these insects yesterday for the first time ever! Of course I ran to Google to find out what it was. This blog was very informative. I live on the Georgia/Alabama border. So they must be migrating south. Very interesting looking creature for sure.

    • I see that Lee’s Summit is south of Kansas City. Your weather is subtropical much like the environment in Tidewater Virginia. I’m sure the wasp will be happy there!

  50. Oh! I feel terrible for not researching sooner! Saw our first ever yesterday and human instinct kicked in and my mom killed it (took ALOT of stomping). Then today I was out there with my dog and saw another one and yep…you guessed it…I killed it too! My dog is highly allergic to yellow jackets and to think I just killed the one insect that helps control their population!

    We live in Memphis, TN and have all my 47 years and this is the first time either of us had seen this stunning creature! Her beauty is what made me come look her up. Thanks so much for all the info!

  51. SAw one in my driveway just east of Nashville TN today and was surprised to read that it was a wasp…in a home with a son deathly afraid of flying stinging insects, I think I will keep that secret to myself!

    • I had to chuckle over this comment. Maybe he would love to know more about insects and bugs to overcome his fear. I think it’s a common fear with children but mine were introduced quite young as we studied insect critters together.

  52. We live approximately 60 miles north of the Tn border in KY. we have just tons
    of these ants, on the ground and flying beside our vegetable garden. so far,
    we left them alone and wear shoes outside. I walk the dog in another part of
    the yard and neighborhood. not too sure I like these guys……

  53. I live near Spartanburg, South Carolina and saw my first one today. It was a very striking creature, with signs of red and black so my husband killed it. And it took a couple of good stompings to do it. Now I know why. It was just outside the door of our church and around noon in the sun. Our soil here is mostly clay so I am beginning to think they came here because of the cicadas coming out this year. The side of the church we found it on is near the woods.

  54. I saw one of these (REALLY big one) in Oklahoma, and I have seen a few in Virginia (halfway between ORange and CUlpeper). Usually I see them at the edge of the woods (walking from the pavement into the woods)

    As an EMT, my concern about these is that people should be educated that they ARE wasps, so anyone with a wasp/bee allergy should know that this insect’s sting could potentially cause anaphylaxis.

    They are pretty…for a bug.

  55. I meant to elaborate on the one I saw in Oklahoma. It had actually wandered into a building, and it was the first time I think I’d seen one. By really big, I mean it was practically like a Bumblebee without wings. Fat. LOL.. okay maybe a slight exaggeration but that’s how it seemed at the time LOL.. the lady working with me called it a “Cattle-killer” and I’d never heard of such a thing before.

    • As you probably realize, the nickname is not based on fact. Any wasp sting packs a wallop! These insects wander everywhere so entering a building is just a wrong turn. She lives outdoors and will quickly die inside without her food source… nectar from flowers. I knew they come in different sizes. You must have seen the largest!

  56. My wife and sons just saw one at Steel Creeke Park in Bristol, TN. My sons are bug fanatics (4-year old twins………..what boy ISN’T into bugs at that age?) and we are always answering questions for them about the behavior/eating habits, etc. of bugs……we were stumped today! This is the first time we’ve seen these and I must say that they are beautiful.

  57. I grew up in Lakeland, Fla. and i saw these all the time. Now i live in S. Carolina and have seen a few, but none of them close to as big as the ones i saw in Fla. They are beautiful creatures!

  58. I live in Roanoke, VA. Today I took the puppy out for a potty break in the grassy area surrounding our front porch. I spotted a bright red insect several feet away. At first I thought it was a caterpillar. I took a closer look and realized that it looked more like a giant hornet or wasp — fire engine red w/ black stripes. I think it had wings, but maybe I’m wrong. Eeek – I’ve never seen such a thing! The vibrant red color hailed as a warning. I cautiously backed away and took the pup inside.

    I suspected this was something rare since it was new to me, so I hurried to change into long pants/sleeves, grabbed my camera and returned to the yard in hopes of capturing this red bug on film. No such luck – it was gone. After looking at photos of the Red Velvet Ant (cow killer) and reading descriptions, I believe that is what I met in the yard today. Fortunately no one got stung, but I’ll be on guard from now on.

    In reviewing previous posts here, I see that some folks have suggested that there may be a connection of more Red Velvet Ants during hot summer months and also during a time when the Cicada population is high. I can attest that here in Virginia (August 3, 2011), it has been very hot, dry and cicadas are out in full force. On a side note, I’m still seeing quite a few Stink Bugs (but they’re smaller and far fewer than seen in previous years). Also this summer, we have spotted a number of Black Widow Spiders in our landscaped mulch beds. We also had some problems with Wasps nesting under our back deck and found a Bee nest on the corner gutter. Ugh! The bee and wasp nests have been removed. Now we need to treat our front yard.

    I’m currently researching pest control solutions. We have small dog (under 10 lbs) and need a safe grassy area for her. Can anyone can suggest an effective Pet Safe Pest Control solution that will protect us from Red Velvet Ants, Black Widows and other unwanted creatures? I’d prefer to avoid hiring a professional exterminator unless absolutely necessary. Thanks in advance. This site is great and very helpful!

    • I think you must have seen the female red velvet ant without wings on the ground. She travels fast! I’ve seen one or two of these insects a summer all my life around the shores of the Mobjack Bay in Virginia. I still go barefoot in the yard and have never stepped on the red velvet ant. I was stung on the toe by a cicada killer and ouch!!!!
      The Mid-Atlantic region has a serious invasion of the brown marmorated stink bug, a fairly new pest that causes damage to crops and wants to hibernate in our homes during the cold months. Check with your extension agent if you are having a problem.
      Black widow spiders are attracted to areas around structures to live. She is a shy spider and rarely leaves her tangled, messy web. It would be unusual to find her in mulch as she will choose a bucket, box, boots or any object over mulch. Just check items before putting your hands or feet in something. If you see one, just take a stick and squish her.

  59. Just caught one, so my 8yr. old could see it. Location Caseyvile, IL. just across the river from St. Louis MO. I have seen them in this area off and on for the last 35yrs.

  60. A large one today in central NC got the bottom side of my shoe and over 200 lbs of pressure..! Sorry Charlie…No worries mate

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  62. Just seen one yesterday at the gibson pond in SC…Just saying for those who are keeping track of where they reside.. cool looking def thought it was an ant but now i kno

  63. Just saw one in our lunch room at work! Didn’t know what it was and had to stomp on the thing like 5 times before it stopped moving. We are in Baltimore, MD. Our plant is surrounded by woods and backs up the the Coast Guard. I’ve never heard of these before now. Glad to know what it is. I’ll keep an eye out around my house too as my 6 year old hates wearing shoes outside! Thanks for all the information!

  64. I saw one today at the furniture warehouse I work in. It kinda freaked me out so I googled this website. Quite interesting information. Sorry to say I stomped it about 3 times with my boots. I’m in Vincennes, IN, and have never seen one before now in all my thirty six years of age. Took a picture for my Dad who happens to teach High School Science and Biology.

  65. I live in IndianLand South Carolina, never saw this kind of bug before, One of my sons friends identified for me. He told me to flush it, so I did.

  66. I saw my first red velvet ant today while sitting on the bank of the Ohio River in northern Kentucky. I thought it belonged to the ant family but my husband recognized that it looked more like a wasp than an ant. What a beautiful creature!

    • He was certainly right. I hope you were careful. I’d hate to accidentally sit on one of these. The velvet ant and the true ant are relatives but belong to different families. One difference between the two lies with the antenna. True ants have a longer first antenna segment that extends beyond their face. The velvet ant’s first segment is longer but does not extend as far as an ant’s.

    • They’ve been spotted in Mass but not in great numbers. I hope your son was careful in catching her. If he feeds he a bit of sugar water nectar, she’ll dive in.

  67. We just saw one at our house in Cape May, NJ. We were going to kill it but then actually felt bad . It was scurrying around very fast in the yard in the middle of the day. It seemed to like being in our shadows more than in the sun light. We’ve seen some wasps around and have had ant issues. I hope you’re right about controlling those populations. However, I would rather not have any insects in the yard.

    • A couple of bridges, a tunnel beneath the Chesapeake and a ferry ride and I would arrive in lovely Cape May in about 6 hours. The Red Velvet Ant would love the sandy soil on the edge of the Atlantic. You want no insects at all? The food chain would break down pretty quickly. We need those pollinators.

  68. I “never” knew this about these beautiful Red Ant’s. I am always takeing pictures, of anything and everything in Nature..I ran on one about 5 years, ago took lot of pic’s, but never thought about gone on line to learn more.. after reading a lot of the commets, I learned something new everyday..

    I won’t try let it on my hand ,as I tried to ..

  69. awww diggity DANG it. I’ve killed two in the last week. Rossville GA. No wings on either. Been extremely hot, hardly ANY rain in long time (it seems). woods all around me. one on balcony (apprx 10 foot off ground) and I have been getting rid of wasp nest as I find them. other in back yard coming out from the woody area. i printed info of the bug earlier today and hung on breakroom board.

    • Just wear shoes in the garden! I saw several males last week flying over bare soil when I visited a friend at a newly constructed home. I searched in vain for females on the ground and never found one. I think the males were disappointed, too.

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  71. I live in Northwest Arkansas and this summer is the first I have ever seen one of these beauties. I’ve seen 3 of them so far this year. Twice, they were walking on hot pavement (it was over 100 F outside) and once in backyard on the grass. I work with a lady who said she grew up knowing them in Mississippi. She said this summer was the first time she’s ever seen them here too. She referred to them as cow killers. Intrigued, I decided to research this “cow killer”. Glad to come across this page.

  72. I saw one 2 days ago, and killed her b/c I had NEVER seen one before. After talking with the family, my daughter saw one (might have been the same one) 3 days prior. The ant that I saw was crossing over our rock bed that we have between pool & grass area. In S. Indiana, we did have a hot dry summer but the past several weeks have been wet & cooler. I have never seen a red-velet ant before either has my child. As soon as we did, we came straight inside to google & try and find out what it was. We have livestock & farm animals the first couple of sites I came to were no help. Thank you for eveyone’s input. It helps to know the “cow killer” isn’t as bad as it seems.

    • Really not as bad as the nickname. No cows have been killed by them that I know about. I believe the female dies soon after depositing eggs so the one you killed may have been at the end of her season of life anyway.

  73. Northern Virginia here and we just found one of these yesterday on the porch – the color was amazing! My question is, if it is considered a “Cow Killer” will its venom kill a human or is it only painful as you mentioned? We have young children and I want to know just how dangerous this is to have wandering around our kids and pets.

    • If you’ve ever been stung by a wasp, it’s pretty painful. This is a wasp. She is shy and will try to avoid contact but if stepped on barefoot, for instance, she will sting. She doesn’t have a nest like the paper wasp that I’m sure you’ve seen hanging under eaves, etc. She travels alone. The most dangerous concern would be an allergic reaction.

  74. I live in Florida and was walking back from pool about two weeks ago, taking the walk I take everyday and walked through a patch of semi tall grass, short enough to spot ant hills and snakes. Thought I got bit by a fire ant but the symptoms were totally different. About thirty minutes after being stung/bit, I got the hugest migraine and it lasted for a week straight. I was throwing up and thought I was going to have to go to the hospital. The area I was stung on swelled up to about 1 1/2 inches out of the back of my ankle and was as wide as a softball. I put hot wash clothes on it every hour to let it unswell. Went to doctor and eventually got the swelling to go down and migraine to go away. Had to take Benedryl twice a day, could barely move out of bed cause it hurt my entire leg so horribly, but I have gotten so much better. If you get stung by one of these ants I advice you to go to doctor as soon as possible or you’ll just feel absolutely horrible. HAHAH

  75. I’ve read all the comments on here and several people have asked if they can harm or kill a dog, but couldn’t find any answers. I’m worried because my dog is in the backyard all the time. Does anyone know if it could kill a dog?

    • It’s a wasp…. just a wasp. The sting is painful but that’s it. Unless severe allergic reactions are involved, the sting should not kill a dog. The reaction should be pain and some swelling like a wasp sting, followed by itching later. My dogs are also outside most of the day and have never had a problem. We only see one or two a summer and they scurry off to hide right away. If you would feel better, talk to your vet or your extension agent.

  76. I am searching the Velvet Ant for my insect at Shepardson Elementary Colorodo. We will make a costume for it and walk around the school.

    • I can’t send you an insect but there are lots of photo online of the wasp. Will you wear a costume? You’ll need lots of red and black fabric…. fuzzy fabric… and a big wasp stinger! Good luck!

  77. Ooops, just killed a solid red one that was trying to come in my home in California. After reading everything here I’ll just leave any more I find alone. Thanks for the information.

    • The males are red and black, have smaller abdomen, and black wings. I have spotted them flying low over the ground looking for females. They do not have a stinger!

  78. I am from Lawrenceburg In. and my seven year old son was stung by one of these (i think lol) over the weekend in a campground nearby. The ground is soil and is acres of nothing but grass and overgrown feilds. The way my son screamed, I thought he had cut his finger off or something. Evidently he thought this bug was interesting and was poking at it with a stick. I think he has figured out why I tell him to leave nature alone. The bug matches the discription of the red velvet ant. Unfortunatly I had no clue as to what it was and since it was read and black I caught it and put it in a bottle in case it was venomous. It eventually died, but I until I figured out whether or not I was going to have to take my son to the hospital, I wanted to keep it so it could positively be identified.

    • I remember touching them with a twig as a youngster just to hear the sound they made. What a painful lesson for the little guy. I’m glad he was not allergic to wasp stings. Lawrenceburg is in southern Indiana near Cincinnati on the Ohio River. I’ll mark that on my map.

  79. Saw my first one yesterday in the yard, in Kingwood, Texas. Then today, I saw one while I was walking my dog. This one was walking up a driveway and I went in for a closer look. I didn’t know what it was, and then it started getting a little aggressive, like it was gonna jump at me and try to bite me, so I stepped on it. The shell was so hard I actually had to step on it three different times before it “died”…Then to my amazement, as I was carrying it back to my house to look it up on the internet, I realized the thing was still alive. It was clinging to the stick that I was carrying it on! It was still trying to move its butt back and forth attempting to sting the stick. I have never seen one of these before and neither has my fiancee, who has lived here his entire llife. Anyway, it was about 2:00 in the afternoon, and about 96 degrees, bright sunshine in Kingwood Texas, when I ran into this “Ant”…which must have been a female, because there were no wings. Scared the heck out of me the way it moves and runs towards you, but I guess I probably scared it the same. .

    • Patricia, I can’t say with certainty where the insect originates. I’ve read on numerous sites that a Dasymutilla occidentalis ancestor has been found in 40-million years old amber from the Dominican Republic but I haven’t seen this confirmed on a scientific site. You are living in an area where numerous species of the wasp are found. They are common in Texas and the southwest but a Virginia entomologist told me that the wasp is expanding its territory northward due to climate warming.

  80. I just saw one in Moncks Corner, SC. I enjoyed reading about them on your site. Not knowing what it was and figuring the red and black meant danger, I tried to kill it but it is one tough bugger and when I looked back it was gone so I’m not a killer after all.

  81. hi i saw a bug today while working in the yard,it went up my leg so i hit i just looked it up to find out what it was cause i have never seen one of these while living in the make a long story short the only reason i looked it up was cause i have never seen one of these while living in the city also i have never heard a bug make such a loud noise before….i live in il

  82. Saw my first one yesterday in NC Piedmont, just west of Winston-Salem. It’s been very hot here, and the creature was crawling along my driveway in the late afternoon.

  83. My husband just found one today and picked it up to put in a jar and show the kids. We looked it up and now I am very grateful he didn’t get stung! I’m a little amazed he didn’t actually. He handled it about for a minute. Not recommending this to anyone at all though! We are in Burkeville, VA.

  84. I found one of these on my concrete patio today. I live in Casey, IL and had never seen anything lie it. My cat was chasing her when I got her in a jar and put it in the freezer. I thought it might make a good addition for a student’s inspection collection. Reading all of this makes me wonder if the drought and the intense heat we have been experiencing explains her appearance. Thank you for all of the information!

  85. I found a solitary female today and it was the first velvet ant that I have ever seen in this area, New Madrid, MO. After reading about what climate these wasp prefer, I am not surprised by my find. We have had record breaking heat this summer and drought that has forced burn and firework bans. I will certainly keep and eye out for more since I have 3 children who love to walk barefoot back and forth from the pool!

  86. Saw my first one (I think) today. About an inch long and crawling near a fire ant nest. I live in Georgia and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one before. Of course, I went back inside to get my camera to take a picture of it, but as soon as I went back out, it was gone. Poor luck I guess. Well, it sure scared me to see it, but I’m glad to know that it isn’t too dangerous. I’ll be keeping my eye out for them now. Don’t want to step on one…

      • I think they have been in Georgia for a long time. I grew up in Thomson, Georgia (near the Augusta area – lots of sandy soil) and as a kid I remember them being called “cow ants.” My brothers used to play a game and try to stomp them into the sand but their outer shell is so tough they just get up and walk away! And my brothers quit playing that game right after one of us got stung! What a welt that was! Ouch!!!

  87. Put another pin in your map for O’Fallon, IL (about 20 miles east of St. Louis). Yesterday my husband noticed this ‘horrific beauty’ on our brick patio where the nectar drips down from a window hummingbird feeder. It was 5pm, still daylight. She must have been parched from this heat wave. He scooped her into a cup (met by much resistance, but no verbal protests) to bring into the house to show me (how thoughtful), as neither of us had seen one before. Horrified, I immediately Googled “giant red ant” and proceeded to school myself up. We then transferred her to a glass jar, took pictures and fed her a little nectar from the hummingbird feeder, while we decided her fate.

    Maybe coincidentally, my husband had just finished digging holes in the back yard to plant some trees and shrubs, so maybe he dug her up and she wandered toward the nectar. Though the soil in this area is hard clay, we do have cicadas again this year, and our neighbors across the street are (again) plagued by Cicada Killers digging up their garden, so it’s all coming together. As to her fate, since our neighbors declined to take her, we released her into a small wooded area behind our house, and are a bit saddened to now have to wear shoes outside.

    Such a beautiful creature, though. While observing her in the jar, that soft red velvet kept calling out to me to touch. But I didn’t dare.

      • I can’t say for sure. After I put the nectar in the jar, I saw her go toward it, but I had to attend to another matter, so I didn’t get to see if she drank or not.

  88. We’ve seen several males and females over the past couple of weeks in Richmond, Rhode Island. Glad to have found this site – great info.

  89. Seneca SC–my yard has MANY! We have 2 smallish dogs and a toddler so we kill them when we see them….3 females this week!!! In my screen porch just today we had a male and female at the same time.

  90. I’ve been seeing many of these lately, never noticed them before. I’m all for them if they go after wasps (they give me the willies, especially the parasitic types. All part of nature, I know, but I got a phobia). But do they really affect bumblebees? In NH, bumblebees are in severe and dangerous decline; don’t know if it is the weather or disease. Maybe I should stomp on them? (the wasps, not the bees). I’m dying to hear their sounds! We’re in southern NH, and we’ve had record heat.

    Fun & excellent site! 3 years worth of information. Congratulations, Annie!

    • I read that they are considered minor pests because they prey on the pupae of bumblebees. So you are right there.

  91. On Sunday July 15th I saw a big red ant looking insect walking down a boat ramp in Sullivan Indiana. I had never seen such an insect before in my life. I forgot about it until the following Wednesday at my home in Robinson Illinois looking out my backdoor watching the humming birds on their feeder when off in the distance I saw another huge red ant like insect. I only saw this one female and showed her to my husband whom also has never seen anything like it.Then I found this site. Thanks for all the info. I too will wear my shoes from now on.

  92. I came out of restaurant with my arms loaded full of subs in Cleveland, TN. This beautiful large cow killer was making circles on the asphalt under my car door. It looked like it could pack an amazing punch if it bit/stung me. I balanced everything in one hand to take a picture with my cell phone but it would not hold still. It was amazingly large, very hairy, fiery red and bashfully shying away. I cropped and zoomed photos but it still was hard to view well. I posted it on FB then googled it. This blog is so helpful. It was the first time I’ve seen such an intriguing insect. It was almost a hundred degrees, noon time, on a black asphalt parking lot, in SE TN about ten miles from GA.

  93. My mother called me out to the front yard today to ask me what the bright red creature was. It crawled out from under her car and hurridly into the grass. It never stopped moving, but I did get a decent photo. I live in Alabaster, AL. We have had record breaking heat hear as well, but it has been raining on and off a lot the past two weeks. Before that we were close to drought.

    I have NEVER seen anything like her in all my life in Alabama. I was born and raised in this area and it just caught our attention as something that had to be out of place. My daughter tumbles in the same area of our front yard almost everyday and I am thankful she hasn’t been stung. I read that a small calf could bed down on top of one of their nests and easily be stung to death.

    Pretty scary!

    • I believe the cow killer title is just a name. I read on the Missouri Dept. of Conservation site that a study showed the sting is comparatively less toxic than that of a harvester ant and a honeybee.

  94. I hadn’t seen one of these red velvet ants for years, but this afternoon about 5:00p.m. as my wife was watering flowers she saw one and ran inside to get me. I was lucky enough to see it also, and I watched it for several minutes as it walked through our drought stricken grass. I had forgotten exactly whaat it was so I googled it and was glad I found this site.

  95. I live in Madison IN and my husband brought one home from the state prison he works at, guess some maintenance men found one and decided to catch it although they said they see them all the time on the grounds while out working, but this time decided to bring in and show others but when it was time to go home my husband brought it home, for the men were gonna kill it, so me and our girls got to see its beauty then let it go! so just wanted to share and say we have quite a few here in Madison In, June,

  96. July in SouthEastern Wisconsin. Just saw our first female on the front step next to our brick patio area. Upon further investigation, found a pile of paving sand on one of the bricks and the male was busily bringing more sand/rock up out of the hole. Have never seen these here before. We are 30 miles west of Milwaukee long Interstate 94. The wasp and bee activity has been unbelievable this year. With the drought, we have not mowed our lawn in 7 weeks so far. All kinds of interesting things going on in the ‘Bug World’.

    • The female digs the holes to lay eggs on a host. She has the stinger. The male has no stinger but has wings. You’ll see him flying, not digging. Both adults eat nectar, just like many wasps and bees.
      Is this the first report of a sighting in Wisconsin?

  97. I’d never heard of them or seen one until I was in Virginia last summer, but I knew right away what it was when I saw one outside my house in Bloomington, IN this morning. Never have seen one around here before. Maybe has something to do with the drought conditions and above average heat this summer.

  98. One crawled out of our front yard and started across the driveway before I successfully captured it. Olathe, KS (southern suburb of Kansas City). We have had 18 days of over 100 degree heat and we are one of the last homes in the subdivision to still be watering the yard – the only green lawn for blocks so I’m sure we are attracting every variety of vermin for a mile radius.

  99. Yesterday was weeding in my garden and discovered numerous little holes in the bare dirt. I was concerned they might be “ground hornets” (what I’ve always called yellow jackets), so I observed one for a few minutes to see what creature called it home. In a few minutes a large cicada wasp landed near it, holding an even larger green cicada. It dropped the cicada, went in the hole, then popped out quickly to pull the cicada inside.

    About 5 minutes later I saw one of these cow-killer red velvet ants nearby. Never saw one before, so I did some research, and identified it. Interesting that it uses the larvae of the cicada wasps to host its eggs! With the 6 or 8 cicada wasp holes around, and this cow-killer red velvent “ant” nearby, it appears as though our yard is hosting its own little circle of life for these two types of wasps! So, you can add the town of Orange, Virginia to the list of unseasonably hot and dry places that have these fascinating insects!

  100. Glad I found this site! I saw one of these for the first time today. I live in Magnolia, de just south of Dover. I won’t be going to check the mail barefoot anymore!

  101. So today I was on a beach in a lake and I saw one of these velvet ant so I picked it up thinking that I could throw it the opposite direction but that was a very painful mistake… It stung me so fast and I can say it was the most painful stin I have ever encounterd.

  102. Observed one crawling out of a nest in my back yard this evening, and I agree that they are quite beautiful insects. Living now in Mississippi, I encounter a variety of exotic looking bugs that I have never seen before in many of the other states I have lived. I often wonder how rare the bugs in this area are. Looks like though, the “Velvet Ant/Wasp” gets around!

  103. I live in central Indiana and unfortunately these beauties LOVE our sandy soil. Especially this year with the drought. My husband and I kill about 1 a week, and this week it’s been 2. I know they serve a purpose, but with a 1 and 3 year old running around I can’t take the risk of them picking up such a “pretty bug”. I’m thankful they’re so easily spotted.

  104. I’m on Kent Island, MD. I seem to have a lot of these this year (2012) I am still very concerned about my dog(s).

    • You live in a beautiful area in Maryland surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay. As a Virginia entomologist told me a couple of years ago, global warming favors the proliferation of these insects. It’s been interesting to read these comments from so many.

  105. seen my first one last year at this time but didnt think much about it untill i seen another @my work place in the bathroom floor………i looked it up and landed here,just wondering if anyone has got a sting from one and is it poisin at all.thx- aaron from glade spring VA

    • I grew up in Augusta,GA and cow ants were always around during the summer. Usually on hot sunny days. We were always barefoot and we never got stung. You can usually spot them in the sand easily and they do their best to avoid you. And none of the animals ever seemed to be bothered by them. If you want to make them squeal I always thought it was best to pin them down from behind. They can move pretty fast when they want. Never had a need to kill one.

  106. That is so cool. I had always wondered what the hell those were. We’ve had them around here in alabama for years. We have large black and red grasshoppers here and the seem to be dining on those. But I always thought it was an ant and never would have guessed that it was in the same family as a wasp. Thanks for the correction also Dr. Its nice to see some answers with creditable source on the internet. :-))

  107. We have them flying around out side of our screen porch every day in Alabama. I just saw a female crawling inside of the screen porch. Sure glad that I didn’t step on it.

    • The males who have wings usually fly low over the grass in their search for females. Maybe those flying near the porch caught the pheromone scent of the female crawling inside the porch.

  108. I live in Central Arkansas. I don’t know if you are still keeping track of location, but in the past three days, I have killed 8 of these in my back yard. I wish I would have seen this page before killing them!! For the past month we have been fighting a cicada killer (large ground wasp) infestation. Now I know that these gigantic velvet red wasp were only trying to help.

  109. I just got stung by one of these today in the arch of my foot and wow do they hurt. Down and out for about 10 min but the pain started to subside maybe 20 minutes after.

  110. I found a female yesterday when I went out to get the Sunday paper. I was fascinated by it’s beautiful color and ran back inside to get my camera to take a picture. Her color is so vibrant I was able to find her in the grass. I live in Middletown, DE. This was the first time I have ever seen one.

    • Same here its scary on ur first ti, e well not all the way scary but its a little freaky not noeing what it is

  111. I’m on Southern Kent Island and took pictures of both female and male, individually. The Male was mostly flying around. The female was on my deck scampering around to get out of my line of sight. Last year around this time I saw the female. I did not know what it was and looked it up. We have clay soil and a lot of rain lately. The cicadas are out with lots of holes. I have not seen a cicada wasp yet. Last year I saw a cannibal beetle. Great site to report our findings.

  112. Im only 11 and I saw one comeing out of a hole in the hround right next to me this is whenI took my dog out to use the grass but since I saw it I was terifyed it took me a week to fimd out what it was I told my parrents and the said I was I, agening it all but now I have proof if u wamt to see any go to this adress 879 south hickory lane in nixa iys ina place ull see a sigh that says forest park unless you go the back way through the creepy wods

  113. I live in Indiana and my family and I see at least 4 a year, today we actually saw one making it’s way through the yard in early afternoon.

  114. I live in middle TN just south of Nashville, I saw a male for the first time today. I have seen females for several years. My soil is not sandy, more like red clay. I have seen them in sun in middle of day and on overcast days as well. Was reading some of the comments and was wondering if people are spreading them farther North by finding them and “taking them home”. Duh, you don’t take things across borders then let them go.

  115. Yesterday I saw one on my porch -here in central Arkansas -while watering my mini rose pots.I’ve never seen one b4.I lightly stepped on it(it was fast!), then picked it up w/a leaf,put it in a bucket, brot it in, took pix.(it was still alive, just crumpled a bit.) Hours later, I looked and the little booger was running around, looked fine.It stayed under the leaf for awhile, then ran around again.It wasn’t able to climb up the sides. I took it back outside this morning and let it go. I couldn’t see a stinger, but it didn’t have wings. I sent pix 2 my brother in CA, ask him 2 “Name that Bug”.(I do this alot-take pix of critters – lunar moth,imperial moth, black widow, even a termite -send pix to him so he can name em).
    His email repied, “Cowkiller”. So i googled, and found this page. Thanks for the info!

      • Annie, just for your markers, specifically Sherwood, in central AR. And like I said, I never saw her stinger.Even while takin pix, her outta the bucket (she wasn’t really walkin yet) she did alot of “acrobatic-like moves”. Wouldn’t her stinger have been comin out her pointy end?
        And why the ‘cowkiller’ nickname?

      • Sherry, it’s an exaggeration of her sting. Her sting cannot kill a cow according to experts but she’s a wasp and her sting packs a wallop. The stinger is fairly long and points downward. Google ‘cow killer stinger’ to see photos.

  116. Work at a manufacturing plant between Abingdon and Bristol, Virginia. I got some pictures of a female scurrying on asphalt in around 82 degree temperature. Thought this was a cow killer as my father in the late 50`s found a male and was later identified as such. My brother still has it as it was sent to a college an entombed an identified.My father thought it came from Texas on some wood planking shipped to his place of employment. After reading these comments I know it did not. Thank all for the information.

  117. Seen two of these and sorry to say they are dead. It has been wet this summer and we also have had a lot of June bugs. The two were in the front yard and have not seen any in the garden yet. Live on the eastern shore of Virginia, outside the town of onley. I have seen these also in Zuni, va when I was younger and we were fishing at a pond.

  118. I saw one of these in my yard yesterday. Live in Frankfort Ky. Have seen them off and on for years but one time when I was small, I was on a fishing trip with my grandfather to a pond out in a large cow pasture. Suddenly we ran across a line of these or something that looked very similar to them streaming single file toward the pond and the line stretched for a good quarter of a mile. If they weren’t thee since everyone says these are kind of solitary, can anyone advise what those might have been?

  119. My daddy got stung in the hand by one of those ants and he cried like a little girl on his princess blanket at the park

  120. Ah ha! I found my
    mystery ‘ant’. I live 201 miles north of the Great Smoky National Park entrance in GATLINBURG, Tnx (Clinging Dome….Mt.Le Conte…Sugarlands. I saw this ant approx. 30-40 feet away by itself, walking down my paved road. We captured her and brought her to a friend who works at the Knoxville Zoo. No one could identify it! They contacted The County Extension….no identification! This was July 1994. I had never seen one before or since….but for those in the U.S., we had it long before those posting in New England or Kentucky. Glad I finally found my answer guys! Thanks!:)

  121. I live in Blythewood, SC, and saw one of these females today. It was around 10:00 a.m. this morning, warm and sunny. She was crawling quickly on the sidewalk and asphalt as if she were looking for something (and based on the comments above, she was). Our soil is quite sandy. I’ve lived here for 17 years and never seen one before.

    • It’s the sting that you want to avoid. The majority of people are not allergic to stings and experience a local reaction with any wasp, yellow jacket or bee sting: sharp pain when stung, then dull pain, redness and localized swelling, and even itching. The small percentage of people allergic to wasp or bee stings could experience life-threatening symptoms such as anaphylactic shock.

  122. I’m originally from Massachusetts but I’ve lived in Concord, NC (just north of Charlotte, NC) for just over 2 years – this is our second summer here.

    Last year I learned about the Red Velvet ant after one crawled on my bare thigh, indoors, while I was working at my desk (my desk is by the front door – shrubs and rose bushes just a few feet away) Luckily I flicked it off my leg right away and looked it up/got rid of it. We have 3 small children in our home – one was still an infant last year; now a toddler.

    This past Saturday (2 days ago) we killed one coming out of the lawn (right next to our pool and where the children play in the sand that we put out for them (we’ve installed over 3,000 lbs of sand around our pool as a fun walkway/play area – underneath is orange/red clay) as it scurried “on a mission” over our driveway – had to step on it three times with a sneaker to dispatch it.

    While I have a slight pang of guilt about this; as others have said, my children come first.

    Want to note that last year and the year before we had hundreds of thread-waisted mud daubers… they were everywhere… I was even stung by one in our bedroom 4 times and we had about 10 nests in our above-ground basement… I have not seen even ONE thread-waisted mud dauber this year, so I’m not sure what is going on (maybe we covered enough of their beloved clay that they’ve moved on?) but that is a big change. Everything else seems to be staying the same here, we have HUGE populations of every type of hornet/wasp in existence, especially all colors of paper wasps black/brown – same as the two previous years. I have seen a few honey bees this year, unlike last year…and a few Preying Mantises. Cicadas; same as last year; not a lot but they are there.

  123. Murrells Inlet, SC is where I live, originally from CT and have never seen one of these, a female in the backyard and my Sheltie was playing with it! I saw the red and black and figured it was poisonous so stepped on it, she was in 2 pieces for about 5 minutes and still moving, very hard to kill but didn’t want my dog bitten!

  124. Found 1 today. Friends here from WV and he was walking very slowly on the patio outside the garage. I asked “what kind of bug is that?” and he didn’t know either so here I am posting about it. It’s beautiful, but, we’ve never seen anything like it…I have it in a Folgers coffee can on a paper towel. Not sure what to do with it, in case it’s poison.

    • It is a wingless female wasp and it can sting. She feeds on nectar and will consume sugar water if you want to experiment with her. Otherwise you could let her go and watch her scurry away. There have been numerous sightings of the red velvet ants in Indiana.

  125. In Md. Saw our first today, also midday and sunny, quick little lady on driveway gravel. We contained her for a minute to take a picture and let her go. Very pretty. This was a great site to come across. Wonderful comments. Thank you.

  126. Fell asleep on the porch cloudy light rain in 62273 zip code. She was on my bare foot. I froze until she left about 6 minutes. I’m glad I didn’t over react. But I knew that bright red shell meant as a warning. Never saw one or heard of it. More carefull now, she left me alone and I left her alone.

  127. Found a female in Maryland state park, upper reaches of Chesapeake. My daughter screamed and ran so we knew it had to be good. Never saw anything like it. I am a nascent amateur entomologist (and incidentally longtime etymologist). Why’s it called a cow killer? Must deliver ox-stunning blows. Life is good and cool bugs make it better.

    • The sting does pack a punch but certainly cannot kill a cow. Your “ox-stunning blow” may be closer to the meaning than “cow killer.” Glad your daughter ran rather than touched!

  128. Gloucester, Virginia on July 16, 2015, had to tell my Chihuahua to leave it alone. was a female, very fast.

  129. 5:30PM, Church Hill, MD… Velvet Ant running across my patio. WOW! What is THAT??? I was concerned, and I did kill it. Sorry for not doing research sooner… BUT, the shell was hard, and she was HARD to kill! I tried to pick her up with packing tape, trap her under the bottom of a beer bottle, but she escaped out! The tape didn’t work and I didn’t want to pick her up / touch her so, I ended up scooping her into a candle container. She is probably dead… I wanted to show someone so they could see for them self what to watch out for. Glad I didn’t touch her…

  130. I stepped on one an it wiggled out of the dirt then I stomped on it several times and again started crawling away from me so I hit I with a big rock and yet again it got up and kept about its business wow I’ve never encountered anything like this ever in my life

  131. saw five females over the last two weeks here in Leesburg Al. sorry to say I killed three now Im looking them up. we have had a long dry spell

  132. Just moved in to a new Howe in Warrenton VA. Saw one walking across the deck out of a flower bush. Didn’t know what it was so we captured it (still have it) and researched it. If it keeps the cicada and other critter population down I will release it tomorrow.

  133. Lucky enough to buy my own home November 2015. I now have a a small backyard (Duplex). I have many wasps (I looked up on the net because I was unsure if it might be a hornet). I noticed one of these beautiful insects last week. I try to only use organic material for my yard but after reading the comments perhaps I should be more aggressive. Your thoughts? I live in Rock Hill South Carolina.

  134. I live in southwestern va and u can walk outside and find hundreds of these everywhere. crazy they don’t have nests but there is such a large # here anyone have a good answer for there are so many here

  135. Thanks Annie for this post.
    I have these beauties in my central VA gardens and tend to dispense them to heaven. For the first few years I though they must have come in in mulch and had a kitty who would be curious, so out with the cow killer. Now I have digger bees or cicada killers here that are so destructive in my front gravel paths and mulched beds, that they too are goners. For three years I let them nest, yet when the mess became too much I pulled the trigger. They can go find a neighbor’s turf/hillside that is not so carefully tended.
    Thanks for the research! Diane
    PS And thanks for following my blog…

  136. saw one of these first time running through my horse’s corral. spent 5 minutes mashing it with my foot, just wouldn’t die. finally broke in half and the front section kept on running! amazing. didn’t know what it was, but it looked dangerous to humans and animals. finally killed the front section.

  137. I saw one for the first time 8/26/2016, I live in central Illinois. I am 55 yrs old and have never even heard of them! She was munching on a pear that had fallen from our tree. I did try to step on it lightly just so I could try to keep it but she disappeared into all the grass, so they don’t mind grassy areas!!! Now I am concerned after reading all this as my grandchildren like running around barefoot out here!!

  138. My 12 year old son just found one in our driveway. Unfortunately he picked it up twice until i warned him not to. So thankful it didn’t sting him after researching online and dicovering the details about this wasp. We live in Northern Idaho.

  139. We were just at Charlottesville VA KOA campground and saw one of these. It was about 3/4 inch long and I don’t remember much black striping, but an extremely velvetty/hairy very vivid red, moving very quickly at the edge of our campsite right next to wood and much open dirt/clay. We looked it up on internet while we were there and got a few pictures which were very hard to get. Loved it…Fascinating!

  140. We’ve seen three this week in Houston, TX. One scurrying across our driveway and two at a city park. This was my first sighting, and we’ve lived here for 20 years.

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