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Velvet Ant

Velvet Ant

Mutillidae are a family of more than 3,000 species of wasp whose wingless females resemble large, hairy ants. Their common name velvet ant refers to their dense pile of hair which most often is bright scarlet or orange but may also be black, white, silver, or gold.

 

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Mariana Martinez

Mariana Martinez

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The velvet ant has a tough exoskeleton which protects her from stings by the host wasps in the nests that they invade and it similarly provides some protection from light-hearted (or light footed) attempts to crush her. Never employ this control method while barefoot. This technique is best applied while wearing work boots or shoes.

Article: Terminating Velvet Ants
Source: North Carolina State Univ...

They do not live in a colony. So, even if you see several velvet ants (which is quite likely the case), they are all individual females doing their own thing and roaming about in search of prey.

Article: Terminating Velvet Ants
Source: North Carolina State Univ...

Velvet ants are solitary wasps that mostly parasitize the larvae or pupae of other wasps and bees. As such, velvet ants can play a major role in the overall health of an ecosystem. Study of a nesting aggregation of the solitary ground nesting bee Diadasia rinconis Cockerell revealed that over 40% of the bee’s nest cells had been parasitized by 2 species of velvet ants, Dasymutilla foxi Cockerell and Dasymutilla vestita.

Article:   Preliminary Assessment of…
Source:  Offline Book/Journal

The deserts of southern California house a diverse and unique insect fauna. Velvet ants (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) are common in these deserts. Velvet ants are important to ecosystem health, particularly in desert environments,
because they are parasitic on the bees and wasps that help maintain overall ecosystem function.

Article:   Preliminary Assessment of…
Source:  Offline Book/Journal

Females parasitize larvae and pupae of ground-nesting wasps and bees primarily, but a few species will attack beetles and flies. Velvet ants are actually related to paper wasps, so the females have a stinger with which they can inflict a very painful sting if mishandled. They were given their second common name, cow killer, because of folklore stating the sting was so powerful it could kill a cow.

Article: Velvet Ant
Source: North Carolina State Univ...

Both females and males have a dense fur-like covering of hairs on their bodies. They are usually brightly colored with black and either red, orange or gold stripes. They both have long, gangly legs resembling those of paper wasps.

Article: Velvet Ant
Source: Department of Entomology

[Eastern] species of Velvet Ant is diurnal. Both genders can “squeak” by rubbing their abdominal segments together. Other insects such as some ground beetles and checkered beetles appear to mimic velvet ants.

Article: Eastern Velvet Ant
Source: Nature Search

These are solitary wasps. Another common name is Cow Killer. The wingless females have a long stinger and are reputed to have a very painful sting. They are parasites of insects, usually other wasps or solitary bees.

Article: Eastern Velvet Ant
Source: Fontenelle Nature Associa...

Knowledge about the biology of velvet ants is scanty, but those that have been studied are mostly parasites on ground-nesting bees and wasps. A few species are known to attack beetles and flies. Females spend much time in sandy areas searching for nests or aggregations of hosts.

Article: Velvet Ants
Source: Texas A&M University

Velvet ants are not ants at all, but a specialized group of insects belonging to the wasp family Mutillidae. Mutillid wasps can be found in Texas during the summertime in both urban and rural habitats. They are often referred to as velvet ants because the females are wingless, ant-like and often covered with a velvety “fur”.

Article: Velvet Ants
Source: Texas A&M University
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