Have you heard of Ontario ‘Cow Killer’ insect that has a painful sting?

In the wilds of Ontario, there are some very terrible creatures that are closer than you may imagine. One of these creatures is an insect known as a “cow killer ant” for its excruciatingly painful sting. This creepy-crawly, sometimes known as the red velvet ant (Dasymutilla occidentalis), is officially a species of parasitoid wasp and not an ant at all. The fact that red velvet ant females lack wings is the cause of this myth.

From the northeast all the way south to Florida and Texas, a region that includes parts of Ontario, they are spread out throughout a large chunk of North America.

Cow killer bug

While female red velvet ants cannot fly like their male counterparts, they conceal a lethal weapon in their stinger, which packs a stinging punch and delivers terrible amounts of agony.The Schmidt sting pain index rates the red velvet ant’s sting as 3 out of 4 (with 4 being the most severe).

A YouTube video shows how painful it is to be stung by this insect. Excruciating pain that knocks grown man to its knees. Red velvet ants are very little, with an average length of just 1.9 centimetres, but their brilliant, fuzzy red exteriors make them easy to see in the wild, serving as a warning to any potential predators looking for an easy meal.

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Appearance and Characteristics:

The cow killer ant is not actually an ant at all but rather a species of parasitic wasp belonging to the family Mutillidae. These wasps are recognized for their vibrant appearance and potent stings, which have led to them being commonly referred to as “cow killer ants” due to their perceived danger. The females of this species are the most striking, often exhibiting a combination of velvety red, orange, and black coloration on their bodies. Males, on the other hand, have wings and are less conspicuous in appearance.

Habitat and Distribution:

Cow killer ants can be found in various regions across North and South America, and they inhabit a wide range of environments, including grasslands, forests, and deserts. They are particularly prevalent in sandy or loose soil areas where they construct burrows to lay their eggs.

Life Cycle:

The life cycle of the cow killer ant is fascinating and revolves around its parasitic behavior. Female cow killer ants lay their eggs near the nests of ground-nesting bees, wasps, or even solitary bees. When the cow killer ant larvae hatch, they seek out the larvae of the host bee or wasp, attach themselves to the host, and feed upon its bodily fluids. This parasitic relationship can significantly impact the population of host species in certain areas.

Stinging Behavior:

While the cow killer ant’s sting is indeed painful, it is not necessarily lethal to larger animals like cows, contrary to popular belief. The female cow killer ant’s sting is, however, highly potent and is considered one of the most painful insect stings, rivaling even that of the bullet ant. The sting is primarily used for defense against potential threats.

Myths and Misconceptions:

The name “cow killer ant” itself has contributed to a number of misconceptions surrounding this species. While its sting can be intensely painful, it is not deadly to larger animals like cows. The myth of cow killer ants being able to kill cows likely originated from exaggerated stories, as the sting’s effect on cattle is negligible. It’s important to remember that the cow killer ant, while possessing a formidable defense mechanism, is a small insect that poses little to no actual danger to humans or livestock when left undisturbed.

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