Great Smoky Mountain officials warn of 'cow killer ant'


GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WTHR) — If you have any trips planned to the Great Smoky Mountains, be on the lookout for a specific type of insect.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park shared details in a Facebook post on the Dasymutilla occidentalis, which some identify as the "cow killer ant" or "red velvet ant."

Although it may look like an ant, officials say it's actually a type of parasitoid wasp.

Officials say females of the species are capable of a sting so painful, 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," the GSMNP said. "The cow killer eggs will soon hatch and feed on the larval cicada killers, gradually consuming them until the cow killers are ready to pupate."

If you see one of these "cow killers" flying, not to worry -- it is a male and is not capable of stinging.

Filed under: