Friday, May 22, 2009

#7 in my 30 bugs 30 days ACEO series: Velvet Ant!

The 7th in my bug series is done! Just like the last few, she's pen and colored pencils on art paper made with recycled content. Until I get tired of the pen and pencils, I'll probably stick with it for a while- it's different than my usual stuff and I'm enjoying it!

So, about this bug, since it's not quite as charismatic as the others I've done:

The red Velvet Ant, also known as the "Cow Killer," is actually not an ant at all, but a flightless wasp.

It received the nickname of "Cow Killer" because its sting is said to be painful enough to actually kill a cow.

I was stung by one of these a couple of summers ago. When I saw what had inflicted this blinding pain during a session of monotonous community garden weed-pulling, I feared for my life and was shaking in my garden clogs not because of the pain, but because of its BRIGHT RED COLOR. My first thought was that this bug was poisonous.
(And regarding the pain, I did pull my hand out from the weeds and fully expect to see a nail or some other sharp object embedded into and piercing through my finger.)

Luckily it isn't poisonous, as some brightly colored insects and frogs and other animals tend to be. The red is just this insect's way of saying that it has at least a quarter inch stinger buried in that cute furry looking body and it's NOT afraid, nor hesitant, to use it. And it can use it more than once.

So even though they look sooo pretttyyyyyyy and sooofffffft and fluffy DON'T PET THEM! This is a wasp, not a bunny. But sometimes you can pet bumblebees.

They like dry, arid conditions and they live in the ground. So unless you're some kind of weirdo masochist, wear gloves when you're weeding.

What's funny is when you look on websites for information about them, the websites will tell you they only get "up to an inch long." I blame it on the nearby power plant, but the one I saw was at least twice that size, and my boss (who was also part of the community garden that summer) can vouch for that, as he also saw it. If only I had known that we were seeing a mutated-freak-of-nature specimen that day, I would have taken some pictures for some kind of proof.

Maybe we could have sold it on Ebay.
Maybe we would have made millions!
Maybe this post will save millions from being stung by one because now you will wear gloves when you weed, won't you?


La Marquise des anges said...

I do ALWAYS wear gloves ... but there are not many velvet ants around ;)
I actually never heard about it before. it does look like a mix between a ant and a wasp ... really interesting post !!!

Doris Sturm said...

Yes, I agree...very informative, Samantha! I had never encountered one till I moved to the South. I also steered clear of them and made sure the Gizz would not go near one because of its impressive size and color.

Your painting looks great, so bright and fluffy... What a great idea you had making that series...maybe I could try something similar with my're giving me ideas;-)

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

SG said...

Thank you both for the comments! I hope I can save all of my readers from ever having to be stung by one of these guys.
It is AWFUL!

Some of them are an orangey red, but the one I saw was a deep, deep true red. I've never seen anything like it- it was VERY impressive. And scary!