TX Organic Research Center



Velvet Ant

COMMON NAME:  Velvet Ant, Cow Killer, Red Velvet Ant

SCIENTIFIC NAME:  Order Hymenoptera, Family Mutillidae, Dasymutilla occidentalis

SIZE:  ½ - ¾”

IDENTIFICATION:  Large ant-looking insects that aren’t ants or wasps.  They are black and red-orange.  The females are wingless and covered with dense hair and pack a painful sting.  Males have different coloring, have wings and do not sting.

BIOLOGY:  Complete metamorphosis.  Females lay eggs in ground nesting bee larvae and then pupate.

HABITAT:  Lone females patrol the ground especially in open sandy areas.  Larvae are parasites of developing bumble bees.

FEEDING HABITS:  The velvet ant parasitizes cicada killers in the ground.  The tough exoskeleton and hairy covering protects them from the powerful sting of the female wasps.

ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE:  Mostly just an interesting insect.

NATURAL CONTROL:  Healthy soil life.

ORGANIC CONTROL:  None needed.

INSIGHT:  This colorful insect squeaks audibly when stepped on.

This information comes from the Dirt Doctor's Texas Bug Book.  CLICK to purchase.

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