Velvet ("Cow Killers") Ants

Dasymutilla occidentalis
Velvet ant female 3.jpg

The common name of "velvet ant" is misleading because velvet ants are actually wasps. They get the "velvet" part of their name from the very fuzzy females, which are wingless and often brightly colored.

Pest Stats

Color

Black, with areas of very bright red, orange, yellow or white

Legs

6

Shape

Females – wingless, ant-like; Males – winged, wasp-like

Size

1/8 – 7/8” (3-23 mm)

Antennae

Yes

Region

Found throughout U.S.

Velvet Ant Photos

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Habits

Female velvet ants dig into the nesting chambers of ground-nesting bees and wasps and lay their eggs on the larvae inside. When the immature velvet ant is born, it eats its host and then spins its cocoon within the pupal case of its host.

Habitat

Female cow killer ants are typically seen running somewhat erratically on the ground, especially on bare or sandy areas in the warm summer months. They occasionally enter structures for insect prey. Males are often found on flowers, although some species are nocturnal.

Threats

Female velvet ants have a very potent sting that has earned them the nickname "cow-killer." Male velvet ants lack a stinger but have wings.