Recently, whenever I take my dogs for a walk, we're seeing these ladies all over the place. That's the red velvet ant, or cow-killer. At almost an inch long, fairly thick, and bright red and fuzzy, they're hard to miss, and they attract the attention of my two beagles nosing through the grass. They also make a loud, chirping-type scream if you distress one.

But they're actually wasps, and they get their moniker "cow-killer" for a reason. Look at these stingers:

Only the females have stingers and are wingless; the males are less dangerous, but were granted the gift of flight.


So far we've managed to avoid them, but it's like playing The Floor Is Made of Lava on the grass with my beagles โ€” who aren't in the habit of being told where they can and can't sniff. Every summer one of them gets stung on the paw by a bee or a wasp, and that's one of the more sorrowful 6 hours you'll spend with a dog โ€” limping, whining, baying, constant licking, it's horrible. And this summer the red velvet cow-killer ants are out in droves. If one of my beagles is going to get stung again, I hope it isn't by one of these.

They're not particularly aggressive, but I wouldn't recommend tempting one of those stingers.