Velvet Ant

These solitary wasps get their common name from the very hairy females which are wingless, often brightly colored, and look very fuzzy. However, they pack a very potent sting which has earned them the nickname of “cow-killer” and “mule-killer”. Various species are found throughout the United States. 

Adults about 1/8-7/7” (3-23 mm) long. Color black, with areas of often very bright red, orange, yellow, or white. Females wingless, antlike, but lack node on pedicel, densely covered with hairlike setae giving a fuzzy or velvet appearance, and with a long, smooth stinger. Males winged, wasplike, hairiness usually much reduced, coloring usually dull and different from females, and lack a stinger.

Females are typically seen running somewhat erratically on the ground, especially on bare or sandy areas; such areas are favored by many ground-nesting bees and wasps. They will occasionally enter structures for insect prey; observed in second-floor bathroom feeding on springtails (Collembola) by the senior author. Males of some species are often found on flowers whereas, other are nocturnal.

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