Stings from these 'ants' in the Smoky Mountains are so painful they 'could kill a cow'

Be on the lookout for 'Cow Killer Ants' in the Great Smoky Mountains, park service says (GSMNPS/Briana Cairco)

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WZTV) – The Great Smoky Mountain National Park Service is telling folks to be on the lookout for "Cow Killer Ants."

"Dasymutilla occidentalis" goes by other nicknames such as the "Red Velvet Ant," but the insect is actually a type of parasitoid wasp.

The female sting is said to be so painful that "it could kill a cow."

"Female Cow Killer Ants seek out the underground dwellings of other wasps, such as the Eastern Cicada Killer, and will lay her eggs on top of the developing host larvae," GMSNP wrote in a Facebook post.

Those cow killer eggs will then hatch and feed on the larval Cicada killers, "gradually consuming them until the cow killers are ready to pupate."

Unlike the female cow killer ants, males can fly, but aren't capable of stinging.


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