Despite we all got used to calling the insect an ant, cow killer is a wasp in fact. Still, in the majority of case it’s referred to as a cow ant or eastern velvet. And in fact, this insect looks totally like an ant and moves like it. But still they are wasps by their essence, thus they don’t live in colonies.
There’s a peculiar reason which explains the name of this quite aggressive stinger. The pain from its bites is so severe, that you can hardly stand it. The stings are really very toxic. That’s worse, the ants can cause severe allergic reactions, and thus people should learn hot to recognize these dangerous aggressors and watch out for them, which is extremely important for their health and in some cases even for their life.
How Can You Identify a Cow Ant?
Talking about living area of these unpleasant little creatures, we should mention that cow killers can be primarily found in the southeaster part of the USA, although you can occasionally meet them in the north too. They prefer woods and some grassy locations, thus you can often meet them among flower beds in parks and other green areas.
A cow ant is as a rule about 1 inch long insect, that’s the habitual size of any other wasp. Thus, if you compare this insect with other ant types, it will stand out by its size. But that’s not the only one peculiarity of this specie. If you look at cow killers closely enough you’ll see that they feature hairy appearance. The color of their hairs can vary greatly: from black to white and even red, thus a tiny aggressor has a distinct pattern on its body.
Keep in mind, that cow ants are able to move extremely quickly, and they can sting you vey quickly as well, thus you better keep away from the dangerous and aggressive insects. That’s interesting, only female ants can sting, males cannot. You can easily recognize she-ants as they have no wings, while males feature two pair of black wings.
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What People Know about Cow Killers?
Despite its threatening telling name, the ants don’t kill cows in fact. Their stings are extremely painful for humans, that’s why they were originally describes as ones «being able to kill a cow», so the name stuck to the insects for long. As to official name, you can follow them as Dasymutilla occidentallis.
As it has been mentioned, the ants can be found in some parts of the USA and in the southern Canada as well.
Despite the talks, these fuzzy insects are not aggressive by themselves, and will only sting if they are handled or stepped. That’s why you should look out for them to avoid any possible contact. In the urban area you can meet the ants crawling through vegetation at the lawn or digging in the soil or you can even find one or two of them in your garage where they would get just by accident.
What’s interesting, the ants would avoid contacting humans as much as humans do, so cow killers rarely settle in populated areas, but accidents occur from time to time. Cow ants cause no sufficient damage to people or animals, thus control efforts are not required as a rule.
Despite the fact that cow killer’s venom is neither toxic nor lethal for humans and mammals, there may be a very serious case of developing allergic reaction to the bites of these insects. You’ll be able to recognize this condition by:
- difficulties with breathing;
- angry rash;
- rapid pulse and general agitation;
- difficulties with swallowing;
- low blood pressure with extreme numbers;
If you experience one or a combination of above mentioned symptoms after you got stung by the cow killer, you should seek for immediate medical assistance. If you feel well and just have pain after the bite, treat it with cold compresses and use some antibiotic cream to prevent infection.
How to Get Rid of Velvet Ants?
If you follow precautionary measures, the chances are high velvet ant will avoid you as much you avoid it. The insects don’t live in colonies thus you may meet only one separate insect in your garden. But if you’ve found more than one and want to protect your pets and children from these unusual insects, you might want to know the way to kill them.
For this you can use any of special sprays in the shop. Any insecticide that proved to be effective with wasps or bees will be effective with cow killers as well. Just spray it on the ant and that’s it.
If you don’t have any spray at hand, you can just crush the ant with your shoed foot. It’s quite easy to kill them this way as there are not many of them around as a rule.
If you find the ants’ nest or underground holes where females lay their eggs, you can use wasp spray as well or special insecticide dust that is sold in all garden centers. Put it into the holes or a nest to kill the insects.
Ant the last recipe: you can always use borax to kill any type of ants, including cow killers. Velvet ants will eat borax with pleasure if you mix it with some flour or sugar. You’ll need just one tablespoon of borax mixed with honey, for example. Leave the mixture next to the ants’ nest or right in the place you saw an ant and just wait until the insects will be attracted by honey and killed by borax.
Even if the insects will walk through the mixture without eating it, they’ll still bring it to their nest thus killing even more of them later.
Keep in mind, that borax is pretty dangerous for children and pets, thus watch out you place your baits out of their reach!
As it has been mentioned above, you’d hardly be attacked by the insects despite you step on it by accident. So, if any of them were spotted in the place you live, make sure you don’t go out without shoes. Wearing shoes is considered the best and perhaps the only one precaution measure from the ants’ bites so far.
Cow killers are mainly active during the day; however they usually hide in the hottest hours.
Remember, the cow ant keeps her sting after she bites, thus she can do it repeatedly. If you got stung by the velvet ant, you may develop severe allergy, thus be careful and control your condition.