See this thing? I first saw one here several years ago. I was fascinated and looked it up online. This past week I saw one again and got a few passable pictures. After my initial research, I knew it was wise to merely watch the bug and leave it to its own affairs.
The exotic-looking specimen, which is about an inch long, is the solitary Red Velvet Ant, aka the “Cow Killer.” Strange name, right? The insect is actually a wasp. It doesn’t want to fool around with people but if bothered, the wingless female delivers an exceedingly painful sting (whether it could actually bring down a cow is unclear, but my research suggests anyone stung might think it within the realm of possibility).
Evidently, the Cow Killer turns up in late summer which is why I’m seeing it now. Its personal habits, how it conducts itself in matters of eating and daily life, are kind of icky, enough so that I really don’t want to type it up and besides this isn’t the Nasty and Icky Aspects of Nature blog. If you want to know more, have at it! http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/cowkiller.shtml.
Postscript 8/16: The Cow Killer turned up yet again too close for comfort (doesn’t it know it’s supposed to like “fields, meadows, sandy areas, and the edges of forests”? This isn’t any of that but a screen tent on bricks.) I thought I had run it off last week – not by harming, just discouraging – but I guess not. Today I tried hose water discouragement and sure enough, it didn’t like getting wet and climbed on to a hose coil to escape. So I decided it was time for another installment of the Insect Relocation Program and offered it a looong stick to climb onto instead. To my surprise it readily did and I was able to carry it to another spot, somewhere I won’t be hanging out. Buh-bye Cow Killer. Hope you didn’t leave your offspring nearby…