Asked on Jun 27, 2012

What is this and does it sting?

Carla D
by Carla D
This is one of many bees that have been swarming around our backyard.... What are they, do they sting, why are they swarming in one particular area and close to the ground? Do they nest in the dirt or grass? they look and act very intimidating, but havent stung. Im afraid they will! Help!
what is this and does it sting, gardening, pets animals, What is this
What is this?
  43 answers
  • Marg C Marg C on Jun 27, 2012
    sure looks like it DOES sting!

  • Red and black Furry wasp or cow ant Also check out Based on this information they the female have a mean sting. But they do not have any wings, The males have wings but do not sting. They take advantage of other ground bee nests where they lay their eggs.

  • Bernice H Bernice H on Jun 28, 2012
    So does it sting? went to the site, no real info..

  • on Jun 28, 2012
    It looks like a Bumble Bee - If it is then yes, they sting.

  • Seth F Seth F on Jun 28, 2012
    That's a male Cow Ant. The males fly and the females do not. They aren't aggressive to people but if you mess with them they will sting. I had a friend stung by one and he said it hurt way worse than a regular wasp. I think they tend to like sandy soil. I have a sandy backyard where a above ground pool used to be and I have seen them there before. I found this page for you that may give you more info. The info you want is near the bottom.

  • Wow, never seen that before. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Bernice, there is a 2nd link on my response that explains exactly what Seth described. Only the female stings however, as the male is not capable to do this. And they do say that the female sting is the worse pain you would ever feel and it lasts for more then 20 min. Ouch!

  • Carla D Carla D on Jun 28, 2012
    Thanks you all, and Seth, they are swarming around a particular area that is sandy soil....thanks for all the help. ill stay clear and try to keep my cats from chasing them.

  • Carol S Carol S on Jun 28, 2012
    Looks Nasty ----- !

  • Patricia R Patricia R on Jun 28, 2012
    The only thing I would do is get the Raid !!!

  • Bernice H Bernice H on Jun 28, 2012
    AHA wbridge..thanks I evidently didnt see the second link becaus I clicked on the link instead of the>>>>>>>> thingy! Have never seen them but if I do...I will stay away ..far far away from them. I have a loud laugh , will that irritate them? (Jusstt kidding!)

  • Susan S Susan S on Jun 28, 2012
    @Hometipster - Uh, just what kind of bumble bees you got there??? This guy is black & red. BB's are black & Yellow!! Just sayin . . . Carla - within the past couple of weeks there was a lengthy discussion about wasps, hornets etc. and how to get rid of the nests - this one was the typical paper looking nest built up in a corner. But, one of the suggestions was to use WD40 as the oil disables them when it coats their wings I think I'd get a can of that - and you do have a little bit more protection as far as distance is concerned because the "straw" gives you about 6" more between you and the hole where you're spraying. I'd douse that entrance but good and see what happens.

  • Susan, do not waste your time with WD40 or you will become a bee stinger pin cushion. Get professional help on larger nests, Also spray them late in day early evening when there all back at the nest. There are plenty of good quality wasp and hornet sprays that will shoot up to 15 feet. Also many brands foam up when they come into contact with objects such as nests and flying bees. This prevents them from flying away.

  • Sherrie S Sherrie S on Aug 05, 2012
    I have bees & bumble bees in my yard. The bee posted here doesn't look like a bee or a bumble bee I have ever seen. I have so many plants that attract bees & I am not afraid of getting close to them as I know how important they are to the environment. I would watch out for ""NEW" bees.

  • Carla D Carla D on Aug 05, 2012
    Funny.......since i posted my question and found out the females (cow ants) are the ones that sting ( i smash them when i see them), Ive allowed my boy cat to have his fun catching and playing with them til they dont move. Hes my pest control for these things! works like a charm!

  • Susan S Susan S on Aug 05, 2012
    Carla, your kitty doesn't get stung???

  • Carla D Carla D on Aug 05, 2012
    doesnt seem to......he has a blast chasing them around. and never shows signs of having been stung. if he did, Im sure he'd learn his lesson and leave them alone.....but its awfully fun for him!

  • Susan S Susan S on Aug 05, 2012
    Now that's really wild! If he got stung I'm sure you'd know about it. I'm bettin he'd be howling and have a really swollen paw!!

  • Gena Gena on Jan 12, 2013
    here in texas we call them ground wasps the males fly the females don't and yes they do sting

  • Candace Seaton Candace Seaton on Mar 21, 2013
    Patricia R, please rethink your immediate response to kill things before you even know what they are. You may kill vitally needed pollinators and spew dangerous chemicals without even thinking. Not nice to mess with Mother Nature.

  • Candace Seaton Candace Seaton on Mar 21, 2013
    PS. I got stung by a bumblebee last year ( I accidentally pinched him) and thought I'd have a nasty reaction, as I usually have with bee stings, and within a few seconds it was fine! They are mostly bluff.

  • Annie DeLeo Annie DeLeo on Mar 21, 2013
    We call them Velvet Ants and I read somewhere that only the wingless females sting.

  • Linda cockman Linda cockman on Mar 24, 2013
    heard on NPR a few years ago about the cow ants . They said the females loose their wings once they have mated....

  • Sandra Parrill Sandra Parrill on Mar 24, 2013
    They are actually a solitary wasp, called velvet ants because of their appearance and cow killers because of their painful sting. Yes, the wingless females sting! They are not aggressive but if you are tromping around outside in your bare feet and encounter one, it will surely remind you to wear your shoes next time! They cause no damage and should't be killed. The adults feed on nectar and lay their eggs on the cicada killer wasps cocoons, which the velvet ant larvae devour. It's a wasp eat wasp world out there!

  • Irene Irene on Mar 25, 2013
    Hi Bernice, You're funny. I also use the word thingy. Like I can't find the thingy or where did I put that thingy LOL It was interesting to read about the red and black ant. I had never heard of them. We don't have them in Southern Ca. I like looking around at the different things that I see on Hometalk. Especially gardening and seeing all the cute things people put in there gardens that are what some people call junk.

  • Bernice H Bernice H on Mar 27, 2013
    @Irene ha! yup , a lot of thingys in this world. I am also at the age where I can call everyone hun...male or female. I don't have to bother with names anymore! relief!Because I many times, can't think of them quickly enough.

  • Irene Irene on Mar 27, 2013
    Now that is a great idea hun. Except what do you say when you need to introduce someone and can't remember his her name? LOL I trimmed my hybiscus back yesterday the frost just about killed it. Then trimmed up my butterfly bush it was a little overgrown. There was a pretty orange butterfly checking for blossoms but the bush isn't in bloom yet. Today I have to finish cleaning up all the branches.

  • Irene Irene on Mar 29, 2013
    I don't know what this thing is. But when I was a kid I used to see a small spider that was red and black and fuzzy looking. I never touched on. Not a black widow which has a vionin shape on its belly. I never touched a black widow either not even to turn one over to see its belly. They are very easy to recognize because they are shiny and black. They give me the willies.

  • Karen P Karen P on May 07, 2013
    When I first saw it I thought Velvet Ant, and another person posted that name. In the same family as all "bees" hymenoptera. I only see them occasionally on trails crawling only, where they have their nests (in coastal California). I feel it is treat to see one. Some are red, some are reddish blond. Beautiful critters. Yes I have heard that their stings are quite painful.

  • Ann Darnell Ann Darnell on May 23, 2013
    If you really are having a bad time with bees, like yellow jackets. Last year we had a nest built in the soffitt of the house, I tried wasp killer over and over again,water hosed them down the next day, they were building back, tried this about 3 or 4 times, finally thought about Clorox bleach in sprayer. This took care of them and they never returned. And haven't yet this year!!!!!!

  • Gloria Rosello Gloria Rosello on May 25, 2013
    It is a velvet an in fact is not an ant is a wasp and common name is a Cow killer so if this stung you is better go to the hospital to apply cortisone or other drug that avoid the poison

  • Bernice H Bernice H on Jun 04, 2013
    @Irene I am at the point in my life now, where if I can't remember someone's name as I introduce them, I just flat out admit it! Shake my head and say ..senior moment! Finally something I can get away with. I don't THINK that old, but am taking advantage of it! ha

  • Leah Belverd Leah Belverd on Jun 04, 2013
    That is definitely a male velvet ant-or 'cow killer'. No, the males don't sting only the females have a VERY painful sting. But there's a good chance there is a female close-by. The females look a lot like your photo, except they are wingless and on the ground. The females are also a good bit larger. There's no reason to kill the males, really. They are harmless. If you come across a female, though, be careful. They are fast, very tough to kill, and will 'squeak' when alarmed. If you have young kids, teach them to keep AWAY from these. They are very common here in the piedmont of NC. The females do invade bumblebee or other ground nesting wasps' nests and lay their eggs there-thus killing the larvae. So really they are beneficial in a sense. It's best just to leave them be!

  • Irene Irene on Jun 04, 2013
    Hi Bernice, Did you happen to see the picture of the flower bed that was round and surrounded by rocks and then another row of rocks starting at one of the rocks in the circle curved around and on into the center to look like a snail? I made one in my back yard and if I do say so myself mine looks really great. I built "my snail bed" ( LOL) up starting with leaf compost that I had and then adding large bags of Scott outdoor potting soil untill I got it as high as I wanted it. It took 6 or 7 bags maybe a few more. Don't remember now. If I measured it in the center it would probably be 2 1/2' deep. It is about 7 or 8 feet across. the circle I laid out with nice sized rocks turned out to be more oval than round but who cares. I have planted seeds for New Zeeland sp spinach and basil more flowers and herbs to come. I need to put my pix on the computer and show them on fb.

  • Bernice H Bernice H on Jun 05, 2013
    Oh Irene I would love to see it. If I had to start over I would do something clever like that. my garden is a mess, I have so much crammed in it. and I cant bend down enough to care for it. something about the gluteus maximas or what ever you call it! The hiney! I may have seen the picture you are thinking of. not sure.

  • Bernice H Bernice H on Jun 05, 2013
    @Leah Belverd I would be totally unnerved if a n insect I killed squeaked ...holy cow! It is a good thing flies don't squeak..can you imagine a cockroach and what it would sound like?? arrghh

  • Leah Belverd Leah Belverd on Jun 06, 2013
    LOL @Bernice H!! It's 2:30am and I just got the baby to sleep. Thank you for making me laugh, I needed that! It is a really strange sound, and shocking that something so small is so loud. But then...the same applies to my 10mo. There's another black beetle-I forget which kind (maybe rhino?) that squeaks when it's alarmed. They sound very similar. And no, I can't imagine what a cucaracha would sound like, what a disturbing thought. The 'crunch' they emit when smashed is icky enough for me. ick.

  • Annie DeLeo Annie DeLeo on Jun 06, 2013
    That sound is unnerving when you don't expect it. I was helping my daughter with an insect collection for school when we found one of these. Thinking it was dead it got mounted and labeled. Imagine my shock when later I was alone in the kitchen and the mounting board began to squeak. Freaky!

  • Bernice H Bernice H on Jun 06, 2013
    OOHhh Annie @Annie DeLeo What a horrible story..sort of like the old movie "The Fly"...Help me...squeak, smash! @Leah Belverd yes, the crunch ....after seeing Men In Black 1...all those crunches! Look what technology has brought to us! vivid impressions and sounds of nature. I was almost hysterically laughing one time when my friend was SERIOUSLY telling me how plants scream.....I guess they can and do in a sense, but if you could have seen her intensity..I was like "Phyllis, come on, get a grip" Yikes, my garden is so overgrown, I will put my ear plugs on when next I work in there! Gotta rip out a bunch of stuff , too crowded! I don't wanna hear it, people! @Irene @Kelly S @Sherrie S @Susan S are you following this? Sort of like the spider thread we had going a long time ago? Maybe they scream too..Saying Sherrie..Sherrie, Susan don't kill me please! hahaha

  • Irene Irene on Jun 12, 2013
    I've never heard a plant scream and I've never heard a bug squeak. I'll keep on picking flowers and fruit and veggies and listen very closley. If I hear a plant scream I'll let your all know. LOL I would love to hear a bug squeak. That is soooo funny Annie. You must have just about jumped out of your skin. Thanks for the laugh. I wonder if there is a squeaky bug here in So. Ca.

  • Irene Irene on Jun 12, 2013
    I have a picture in my camera of my snail bed. I'll put it on face book one day. A friend came over today to visit and crochet we both had a crochet project to work on. I asked her if she would like to go out back and see my snail bed. I figured that might freak her out a bit. While we were looking up in my avacado tree to see if we could see any she said where is that snail bed? By then she was looking straight at it. I told her it's right there of course she was looking for a bunch of snails. So I told her it is the rocks going around in a snail shape. She loved it I'm such a tease at times.

  • Annie DeLeo Annie DeLeo on Jun 13, 2013
    Oh yes, Irene, it was freaky. The worst part was that it took days for it to finally die and stop making that noise. It about gave me nightmares.

  • Leah Belverd Leah Belverd on Jun 18, 2013
    @Annie DeLeo jeez...that's horrifying. No way..that board would have gone out in the garage. That's just too creepy for me.