Dangerous Bug In South Dakota, Iowa, & Minnesota: Don’t Touch It!
Warmer temperatures are starting to take hold in the Sioux Empire which means it's time to enjoy more time outdoors doing the things we love including swimming, hiking, and camping. Summertime in South Dakota also means one other tiny detail...the bugs are back!
More and more little critters will soon be crawling or flying around the neighborhood. Sometimes kids are curious, and they like to pick up some bugs. I was the same way growing up. We even had a neighborhood kid "Bug Club!" However, even though some bugs may look harmless that doesn't mean kids should be playing with them.
For example, the ant in the picture doesn’t appear dangerous. But if you see this red ant in Sioux Falls or anywhere in South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota, don't touch it! It may look like an ant, but this bug has the best disguise in the state.
The Velvet Ant (otherwise known as the "Cow Killer Ant") is the ultimate Catfish in South Dakota. It is actually a female wasp without wings. Insect Identification explains that "because of their (Velvet Ants) physical and behavioral similarity to ants, it is easy to mistake a female as harmless and not give it a wide berth." Unlike females, male Velvet Ants can fly.
Velvet Ants are commonly identified by their red and black color. This color combination alone should be a red flag for insect enthusiasts or innocent bystanders. When this female bites, it's harmful. It's very painful, and she uses her bite as a defense against predators and threats, like humans. The male sting from a Velvet Ant is not as sharp.
So where can you find Velvet Ants in South Dakota? You'll most likely encounter this bug when you're visiting the Badlands. There have also been recent reports about these insects in western Iowa and parts of Minnesota. The Velvet Ant can also be found in other semi-dry to dry regions of the United States including other central plain states and the southwest. Some species have been identified in the southeast as well. Velvet Ants can be spotted in Mexico too.
Just to give you an idea of just how nasty this insect is, an individual on YouTube actually recorded himself getting stung by the Velvet Ant. Why? Who knows. But the video certainly provides a teachable moment for kids.