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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 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.




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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