Be on the lookout for "cow killer ant" in the Smokies, says NPS

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) — The National Park Service posted a warning to people visiting the Smoky Mountains to be on the lookout for the "cow killer" ant.

The cow killer ant. (GSMNPS/ Briana Cairco)

The ant is capable of an "incredibly painful sting" park officials said. Despite their name, the cow killer ant is actually a species of parasitoid wasp. They earned their name because their stings are said to be "painful enough to 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 cow killer eggs will soon hatch and feed on the larval cicada killers, gradually consuming them until the cow killers are ready to pupate, " said the National Park Service.

The ant is also known as the "red velvet ant," and its Latin name is Dasymutilla occidentalis.

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