North Carolina Sea Grant
Coastwatch Currents

Coastwatch Currents

October 31, 2014 | E-Ching Lee

Cow killer

Cow killer. Illustration by Charlotte Ingram.

It’s that time of year for ghosts, bats and other ominous ghouls. Here’s another creepy crawly to add to the list.

Meet the cow killer, Dasymutilla occidentalis. (Cue scary music.)

Also called the velvet ant, this masquerader is actually a wingless wasp found in coastal North Carolina. Sounds like this bug wants to win the scariest costume award this year!

Colored bright red and black, its appearance screams warning to any observer. And it is quite the guest from hell too.

According to North Carolina’s Amazing Coast: Natural Wonders from Alligators to Zoeas, “The female deposits her eggs in the hive of another species, and her larvae feed off those of the resident — quite a presumption on the hospitality of strangers! Only the female is capable of stinging, but with a name like ‘cow killer,’ well, let’s just say humans should definitely stay out of her way!”

Learn more about the cow killer, and other local creatures, in North Carolina’s Amazing Coast: Natural Wonders from Alligators to Zoeas. To get a copy from North Carolina Sea Grant, contact Sandra Harris at or 919-515-9101.

Happy Halloween!!

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