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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cow Killers!!?!?!?!

Have you ever heard of an insect that could kill a cow?  Until a few years ago, I had never heard the term. And then I walked outside one day and saw what had to be the biggest ant in North America! It was so unique looking that I caught it in a jar to show Big G when he got home. Since he likes ants, I thought this one would intrigue him too... I was wrong. He kind of freaked that I had caught it and proceeded to tell me he had killed one a few weeks prior because it looked mutant and he was afraid it would bite Little G. Over the course of the next days I caught a few more! I thought they were so cool looking and their behavior wasn't typical of the ants we normally encounter. Right after catching the first one I had begun searching trying to find out what they were. Five or so years ago, it was a little difficult to search for something when you had nothing to go on! I typed in colors, physical descriptions, everything I could think of and I finally typed in something right because a photo suddenly popped up in my search. There was my ant! Except it wasn't an ant....it was a ...... WASP!?!?! What the.... yep. A wasp. 

One of my first "pet" wasps 

And they apparently have a VERY painful sting. Hence the nickname, Cow Killer. They are also known as Red Velvet Ants because their bodies DO look like they are covered in velvet and they do look like ants on steroids.  Once I knew the name I asked a few people around us and of course the farmers here in our rural area knew all about them! Then I started hearing the horror tales of how bad the "bites" (stings) were. It didn't deter me. I kept them. I learned that the ones I found were the females. The males fly, the females don't. I initially had them in a glass jar. I put dirt in it and sticks for them to climb on and once I learned that they ate nectar, I started putting fresh wisteria flowers in there for them to eat. 


Red Velvet Ant on a Wisteria cluster

I had punched holes in the lid and one day as I was changing their wisteria blooms, I had set the lid on top, but didn't close it by screwing it on.... those little critters crawled up a stick that was in the jar and began pushing on the lid! The scary thing was they were able to MOVE it!  I went and bought an aquarium for them to live in. I also bought a mesh lid with clamps! This was a great arrangement until the wisteria blooms were not as plentiful... so I did what any crazy person would do... I taught them to drink from one of those water bottles for small animals! I mixed up sugar water like i do for hummingbirds and filled the water bottle. It didn't take long....
Red Velvet Ant drinking from a water dispenser
Cool Huh? I had them all Summer and into the Fall of that year. It was so neat watching them. At night they burrowed into the dirt and during the day we watched them eat, climb and run around. We didn't see any more of them until a few days ago. I walked out the front door and there was one running across the walkway. 
Our 2013 Red Velvet Ant
The aquarium came back in from the garage. I didn't waste time with a jar! Within a few minutes Little Guy and I were watching her run around exploring the habitat. And it is just as exciting to watch her as it was the first ones. And I haven't been stung a single time, so I can't testify to whether they can actually kill a cow... or any other animal for that matter. :) 

What weird critter have you had for a pet? 




8 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful insect.I bet your little one loved it!

andrea said...

Scary....

Autumn said...

Yea I would freak out I don't do well with bugs. I did find a walking stick when I was in Kindergarten, thought it was the coolest thing a moving stick right?!

Barbara Palermo said...

Oh my God! Fortunately in Europe we don't have insects killer!

Gwendolyn T said...

Wow. That is crazy and cool all at the same time. I don't think I would have been scared of them, but I would never have captured one. I am allergic to wasps I wonder what would happen if this one stung me?!

Gwendolyn T said...

Wow. That is crazy and cool all at the same time. I don't think I would have been scared of them, but I would never have captured one. I am allergic to wasps I wonder what would happen if this one stung me?!

Suzi Satterfield said...

My pets have been of the normal variety... but I encourage spiders in my area. They eat bugs. Therefore, I like them. (And they're just plain neat and efficient. I admire that.)

Brynn @ MommyDigger.com said...

That is one crazy looking insect! I'd probably freak if I saw one in my yard :)