Cow Killer Caught In the Act

I had two previous posts on the killers.  The first was on Cicada Killer Wasps that dig tunnels, fill them with Cicadas and lay their eggs on them.  There are not many Cicada Killer Wasps (sphecius speciosus) in the yard now, although I saw one working on this hole this morning.  The Cow Killer Wasp (Dasymutilla occidentalis) found it.

I caught the female Cow Killer, that is often called a Red Velvet Ant, backing out of the hole where she lays her eggs in the Cicada Killer’s tunnel which hatch first and eat the stored Cicada.

The deed was done and she scurried away.

What’s In a Name? Part 2 Cow Killer

The name Cicada Killer doesn’t seem quite as scary as Cow Killer.  This stunning red and black Dasymutilla occidentalis is rumored to have a sting powerful enough to kill a cow.  It will not kill a cow, but hurts really bad for humans.  The above photo is a male and they lack  stingers.

The females are wingless and pack a potent sting.  I did not have that information on the morning I spent watching the drama of their lives play out.  The female is also call a Red Velvet Ant and she sure is pretty.  The female has a difficult journey.  While I watched, she was pursued by many suitors at once.  Her goal is to lay her eggs in the Cicada Killers Wasps’ tunnel.

Needless to say, the wasps were not welcoming.  It seems like a rough life for the Red Velvet Cow Killer, but as it turns out she has many defense mechanisms and is hardly ever eaten.  A study was done and 59 predators were given the chance to eat the Red Velvet Cow Killer and only two succeeded.  The Cow Killer is one tough lady and lives up to her name.