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Despite This We Stay for April 26, 2012

by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO — Before I moved here, I never saw or heard of these little goomers, which at first led me to believe they were Huerfano mutants. My daughter and I sometimes spend time exploring rock piles looking for cool rocks. One day she says, “Hey, listen to this!” And of course I rolled my eyes because rocks don’t make noises. But it wasn’t a rock, it was a critter. She held her hand near my ear, and I heard this little tiny squeak. The thing squeaked! It looked like a little furry bee, black on the front end and orange-red on the back end.
I decided to look it up on the Internet, the source of all weird knowledge in the universe. Since I started with “little squeaking ground bee ant” in the search box, it took a while to find out it’s not really a mutant after all. And I discovered that it’s not an ant or a bee either – it is a wasp in the genus Somelatinword. Of course, the more horrid the name, the more interesting, so it is commonly called the Cow Killer Ant. Let me tell you, this thing did not look any more like a cow-killer than a Chihuahua does.
I was also surprised to learn that the female Cow Killer Ant (also known as the Velvet Ant) will deliver a very painful, venomous sting that supposedly can bring a cow to its knees – the insect kingdom’s version of cow tipping. Isn’t it fun to discover something else in Huerfano that will cause us bodily harm? My daughter was not aware that the squeaking bee ant wasp would sting, although she has handled several of them. Maybe she has a velvet touch. But I bet she’ll think twice before she picks one up again. She says they also hiss. I don’t know what the hissing might mean or what part of the body it might come from (it does not smell bad). Maybe the hiss means, “Put me down, I say. Put me down or I’ll sting.” And the squeak says, “I mean it!”
Besides stinging people and making them scream, the little squeaking bee ant wasps parasitize the larvae of ants, bees and killer wasps (hey, a topic for another column!). They hang out underground and under rocks most of the time, so they don’t get out much. But they are just the cutest little goomers anyway, so don’t let their innocent look fool you. By the time you figure out if it’s a female or male, folks might hear you screaming all the way to Trinidad.

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