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 but actually 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. Females will sting if you pick them up - so don't do that!
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.