Subject: Nebraska bug
Location: Beatrice NE
July 30, 2012 1:51 pm
I was working in Beatrice NE and spotted a wonderful looking orange and black bug and was hoping you could tell me what it is.
We cannot help but to wonder if you were fortuitously wearing heavy gloves when you discovered this Velvet Ant that is commonly called a Cow Killer, or if you donned the gloves because the aposomatic or warning coloration caused you to suspect you might need them. Velvet Ants are flightless female wasps that are reported to deliver a very painful sting if they are carelessly handled. We have heard several different origins to the common name Cow Killer, and both seem plausible. One explanation is that the sting is so painful, it could kill a cow, though that is something of an exaggeration, and the second explanation we have heard is that the sting could contribute to the death of a cow when the cow reacts to the sting. The stung cow might run into a ditch or in front of a car or otherwise injure itself to the point that it must be euthanized. You can read more about the Cow Killer, Dasymutilla occidentalis, by referring to BugGuide. We decided several years ago that the reputed pain of the Cow Killer’s sting warrants it a spot on our Big 5 list of the most dangerous insects and arthropods. Since we receive so many Cow Killer reports in August, we have decided to tag your submission as the Bug of the Month for August 2012.
Thank you for the bug identification,
A gentleman I was working with was fortuitously wearing the gloves but felt more comfortable picking the velvet ant up because he had them on. He was very noticeable located in a non vegetated area next to a large industrial complex out in the agricultural fields surrounding Beatrice NE. Thank you for your assistance in identifying this bug and I look forward to using your website in the future.
Lars Smith, Project Scientist
Sand Creek Consultants, Inc.