The Red Velvet Ant Is a Beautiful Insect — But Don’t Touch It!
It's called a "red velvet ant." It's not an ant; It's a wasp, and boy does it pack a punch!
The other day I was outside the 92.9 The Lake studios and saw this brightly colored insect on the sidewalk. I had no idea what it was so I looked it up. They're called "red velvet" ants. They are also called Mutillidae by people who use big words. So, let's go with "red velvet ants." They are also, because of their powerful, very painful sting, called "Cow Killers." The urban legend is that a sting from one of these crawlers can kill a cow. Dramatic, but totally apocryphal .
Unlike regular wasps, the red velvet is a loner. They nest mostly in small burrows in the ground. The females are wingless.
While red velvets are not aggressive, they will deliver an excruciating sting if you try to touch them! If you see one in your garden or around the house, the best thing to do is leave it alone. As far as controlling the critter goes, it's rarely necessary because they don't tend to swarm and, other than their mighty sting, don't do any damage.
IF YOU ARE STUNG BY A RED VELVET
First of all, it's going to hurt. A lot! Much more than a traditional wasp or bee sting. The good news is that, unless you are allergic to such stings, treatment is the same as for any insect sting. Wash the area with soap and water then apply plain old alcohol.
Teach your kids about this insect. It's really a beautiful bug, but again ... Do Not Touch!