Wednesday, August 24, 2011
This is one intriguing insect. Usually called a "velvet ant" this is actually a wingless wasp. In fact it is the wingless female and it can pack a powerful sting. The sting is so painful, it has earned this insect the name of "cowkiller." Supposedly it hurts so badly it could kill a cow. Well I don't want to find out. But as you can see in the video, they are usually running away from you. They aren't aggressive so aren't a threat unless you try to step on one barefooted or pick one up. The close up was of one I had frozen for preservation.
These wasps are parasites on other wasps--especially the giant cicada killers. The cicada killer stings a cicada and takes it to a hole where an egg is laid on the cicada and the young cicada killer then will feed on the cicada. But, just when the young cicada killer is in a pupae stage, the cowkiller (velvet ant female) comes into the hole and doubles down on the parasite plan by laying an egg on the pupae. The cowkiller larvae feeds on the cicada killer pupae which had fed on the cicada. Now isn't that special?! Oh, one other cool thing about these animals is that if you pin it down with a twig, it makes a squeeking sound. Nature is so incredibly fascinating in the Kansas Outback.