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  • Coastal Equine

The Cow Killer Ant - a Threat to Horses?

Reprinted from

They probably won't be a threat to your horse? Mostly? And in a vain attempt to keep you reading, I’ll explain what they really are and how they developed such a name.

Cow killer ants, also known as red velvet ants, are actually a wasp.

  • And they are beautiful - like crazy beautiful. About an inch long, the female wasps don’t have wings and crawl around on the ground. The males are similar in appearance but have a set of black wings. After mating, the females of some species lay their eggs in the nests of other bees and wasps, so that the hatching cow killer ants have a food source - the larvae of the bees or other wasps.

  • They are unbelievable tough - as evidenced by their ability to invade another wasp nest and lay eggs. Cow killers are also solitary, shy, and really work hard to stay out of the way. However…. if held, stepped on, or otherwise handled, they deliver a nasty sting. This sting is ridiculously intense, hence the name, cow killer.

  • But the cow killer sting won’t likely kill a cow or a horse. It likely won’t kill you, either, but it never hurts to get checked out. HOWEVER - one of you lovely readers (I'm talking to you, Karen) mentioned that her neighbor has cows and these wasps can, in fact, kill a cow. If the cow is stung on the tongue or face, it might swell up enough to block airflow. Thus actually killing a cow.

  • Which brings me to the tidy summary about these wasps. The cow killer ants may, or may not, be able to kill a cow. Let's not risk it.

  • Which brings me to yet another inevitable common-sense approach to horse-keeping - call the dang vet. Your horse may have some massive pain, which can be managed, or a huge swelling, which can be dangerous.

Learn something new every day, right? And also, no thank you. That's a big nope for me on these pretty things.

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