Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Red Velvet Ant

One of the most striking insects I've ever laid eyes on is the velvet ant. It's actually not an ant but in fact a solitary wasp. The males have black transparent wings and do not sting, whereas the female pictured here is wingless and does sting. The combination of its bold colors allows it to stand out brilliantly on the pine straw laden forest floor. It is so beautiful that your tempted to reach down and pick it up…….but beware. The sting of the “cow killer” is said to be excruciating. So much so folklore has it that it’s so powerful it could kill a cow- hence the name. They’re parasitic in nature in which the female scours the terrain in search of nests of ground nesting bees and wasps. When one is discovered she will dig into the nest chamber and deposit an egg onto the host larva which will ultimately be the food of its progeny. I tried repeatedly to photograph it, but there was no pause in its hasty stride eventually causing me to capture it in a vial.

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