Velvet Ant, Cow Killer (Dasymutilla occidentalis)

Order: Hymenoptera (hy-men-OP-ter-a) (Info)
Family: Mutillidae
Genus: Dasymutilla
Species: occidentalis


This bug has been reportedly found in the following regions:

Amity, Arkansas
Barling, Arkansas
Paris, Arkansas
Dover, Delaware
Smyrna, Delaware
Alford, Florida
Crystal River, Florida
Deltona, Florida (2 reports)
Molino, Florida
Quincy, Florida
Williston, Florida
Augusta, Georgia
Cartersville, Georgia
Dahlonega, Georgia
Dallas, Georgia
Emerson, Georgia
Jesup, Georgia
Molena, Georgia
Shelley, Idaho
Glen Carbon, Illinois
Kansas, Illinois
Paris, Illinois
Corydon, Indiana
Orleans, Indiana
Salvisa, Kentucky
Carencro, Louisiana
Adamstown, Maryland
Chesapeake Beach, Maryland
Compton, Maryland
Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi
Marietta, Mississippi
Carthage, Missouri
Charlotte, North Carolina
Concord, North Carolina
Ellerbe, North Carolina
Matthews, North Carolina
Saint Pauls, North Carolina
Cincinnati, Ohio
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Belton, South Carolina
Camden, South Carolina
Fort Mill, South Carolina
Fountain Inn, South Carolina
Moncks Corner, South Carolina
Summerville, South Carolina
Clarksville, Tennessee
Crossville, Tennessee
Memphis, Tennessee
Mount Juliet, Tennessee
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee
Oakland, Tennessee
Sevierville, Tennessee
White Pine, Tennessee
Baytown, Texas
Bryan, Texas
Dayton, Texas
Desoto, Texas
Emory, Texas
Mabank, Texas
Orange, Texas
Paige, Texas
Colonial Heights, Virginia
Fredericksburg, Virginia
Midland, Virginia
Show all

Members' Notes:


On Aug 9, 2014, Lisa42Tn from Mount Juliet, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

Ive seen these "ants" in the yard a few years ago but had no idea that they have a needle like stinger until I googled "Cow Killer" a few days ago. On the 5th (Aug) I saw one in my flower bed so I ran inside and grabbed a camera. I squatted down a few feet away and tried to rest my elbows on the ground so I could get a good picture. I guess these insects have good eyesight or something because it ran in the other direction! I repositioned myself and waited for it to come back. It finally came back to the hole behind a plant but it was continually moving. A couple days later I went outside to try again. Again it was on the move. I decided to follow it and was surprised to see a second one. I used my shoe to try to direct one of them into an area that was free of grass so I could get a pictu... read more


On Jul 28, 2014, Freelancefotog from Easton, MD wrote:

Saw this big guy crawling across cement patio and into the grass .. lost it while trying to get a photo.

Easton, Md
1750 hrs
July 28th, 2014


On Jul 20, 2014, beachesgirl from Chesapeake Beach, MD wrote:

Just took this photo in Calvert County MD. The bug was about one inch long, red & black, fuzzy, and crawled very fast trying to get away from me.


On Jul 25, 2013, Frangel from Glen Carbon, IL (Zone 6a) wrote:

Found one on road in front of my home in west central Illinois today, no wings. I stomped on it, it screeched a bit, seemed to shake it off and kept going. I captured it to get identification. Looks just like the pic. approx. 3/4 in. long. Because we have friends nearby with bee hives, will kill this tough critter.


On Apr 3, 2011, KariHoltz from Midland, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

We have two that travel our property, we stay away from them. I was stung by one when I was much younger, it hurt very bad.


On Jul 28, 2010, tennflea from Grantville, GA wrote:

I have seen 5 of these bugs in the past week. Three on Sunday while out in front of my house painting. They are bright red here in Grantville, Georgia. Scary to think they are in the grass. I will be afraid to wear flip flops in the yard from now on. And never go barefoot. Since we saw three in just a matter of a few minutes, does that mean we have a nest in the front garden or something??


On Jul 13, 2010, iluvcountry from Smyrna, DE (Zone 7a) wrote:

I saw one in Smyrna, DE today 7/13/10. It was a female and it scurried through the grass over the sidewalk and into the garden.


On Aug 26, 2009, paintchix from Carthage, MO wrote:

I have seen 2 of these in the past month and had no idea what they were. I didn't want to kill them if they were beneficial, but the screaming orange & black color in this insect family makes me suspicious of their behavior. I do have many bumblebees - they have been my biggest pollinators by far - so will kill these the next time I see them to prevent the destruction of the bumblebees.


On Aug 24, 2009, sempai from Crystal River, FL wrote:

Cow Killers are very painful. The odd thing is they ARE called cow killers. The name comes from when cow steps on the ant it will sting the soft part of the cows hoof. This will cause swelling.

I believe my room mate just got bit by one. Fire ants make him swell so the reaction could have been amplified but his whole arm swelled up. But these things have to be stepped on on a rock for you to kill them. Usually they are not much of a problem. Like said before you usually only get one at a time.


On Aug 23, 2009, spirits1958 from Dover, DE wrote:


On Aug 21, 2009, JFarmer from Colonial Heights, VA wrote:

August 21, 2009
My son and I saw for the first time ever today, the Red Velvet Ant. It was about an inch in size and crawled from the driveway into the grass. It was bright red with some black stripes. We were tempted to pick it up but didn't. I had to check it out to find out the type of insect that it is. My son guessed that it was related to a wasp but this was the female without any wings.


On Aug 8, 2009, dixiegril from Jesup, GA wrote:

I dont know if any of you already know this if, you pin a cow killer ant down,preferably with a stick, it will make a sort of screaming sound. They are tough and this wont cause any harm to the ant. Use caution if you try this.


On Jul 19, 2009, abdelnur99 from Augusta, GA wrote:

We just found one of these in our backyard and checked on the Georgia . of Agriculture website. It is apparently a female (no wings) wasp, with the common name of velvet ant because of its appearance. It is, according to the website, a solitary insect that has no nest per se, but can put its larvae in a parasitic capacity into the nest of bumblebees. The worst, though, for those of us with small children, is that the other nickname "cow killer" is in relation to the power of its sting. The stinger is hidden in its abdomen and is apparently wicked, although the pincers in the front do not look to great either.

The site said they were solitary, non-aggressive critters, but I am putting shoes on the kids just in case...


On Jul 12, 2009, tonsse from Bryan, TX wrote:

This is the first time I've ever seen one of these insects. I was really curious as to whether or not these pose a threat to my toddlers. I have two toddlers that are three and one and a half years. I am not into spraying for bugs unless absolutely necessary because I believe that all insects and wildlife serve a purpose of some kind whether we understand it or not. I read that they can sting and it's supposedly really painful, but does anyone know how aggressive they really are? The one I came near seemed more timid and anxious to get as far away from me as possible, as fast as possible. Is this how they all behave or should I be worried for my children's sake?


On Aug 13, 2008, jrgray from Emerson, GA wrote:

I had never seen this insect before today. I saw two of these on opposite ends of my property (about 0.2 mi) today. They are tough little critters.