Currently viewing the category: "Velvet Ants"
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Subject: The Red & Black Bug
Location: Virginia
August 9, 2016 12:07 pm
What kind kind of bug is this? They are everywhere..
Signature: Lacee Barnett

Cowkiller

Cowkiller

Dear Lacee,
This Velvet Ant,
Dasymutilla occidentalis, is commonly called a Cowkiller.  It is actually a flightless female wasp that is reported to have a very painful sting.

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Subject: Ant ? Wasp?
Location: Rancho Santa Margarita ca
May 27, 2016 8:00 pm
I found this today when I was doing some planting in my backyard. I’ve never seen anything like this but we get odd creatures all the time. I’m glad I found your site so I can get help identifying some of these that I find. The white contrast with the black legs was so striking! Not knowing what it is I kept my dog, who found it, away. Should I be concerned about more showing up?
Signature: Curious critter finder

Velvet Ant

Velvet Ant

Dear Curious critter finder,
This is both an Ant and a Wasp.  Your female, flightless Wasp in the family Mutillidae is commonly called a Velvet Ant, so she is an Ant by name and a Wasp by classification, though for even more clarification, both Wasps and Ants are classified together in the Order Hymenoptera.  Velvet Ants are not aggressive, but they are very active and purposeful, and they will defend themselves with a very painful sting should you or your dog bother one with an exposed body part.  We are going to make your sighting the Bug of the Month for June 2016.  We have had the Cow Killer, a common Velvet Ant from the eastern portion of North America featured in the past as the Bug of the Month in August 2012, but this time we want to feature the diverse Velvet Ants found in the southwest.  Many Velvet Ants sport aposomatic or warning coloration, often red or orange and black, to advertise their painful stings.  This particular individual, which may be
Dasymutilla sackeni, is well represented on BugGuide with individuals from California.

Velvet Ant

Velvet Ant

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Subject: What is this bug???
Location: Los Barriles, Baja CA Sur
May 6, 2016 5:33 pm
Hi, I hope you can help identify this bug. It was crawling on my arm in the middle of the night, yikes. I swiped it off, very scratchy feeling. I didn’t notice the welt until the next morning and that was a week ago. Welt is getting bigger every day! We found two of them, one in the bed and one on the kitchen counter, have never seen one before.
Signature: Maureen

Velvet Ant

Velvet Ant

Dear Maureen,
This is a Velvet Ant, a flightless female wasp in the genus
Dasymutilla.  Velvet Ants have a very painful sting.  Based on your description, it does not sound like you were stung, as there would have been an immediate pain.  We have not heard anything about Velvet Ants having urticating hairs that can cause irritation, a reaction that can be caused by handling Tarantulas and some caterpillars and certain plants like stinging nettles, but that sounds like the reaction you have had.  We don’t normally cite Wikipedia, but they do have a very nice explanation on urticating hairs, but do not mention Velvet Ants.  Encyclopedia of the Deserts does mention this phenomenon:  “Females [Velvet Ants] produce noxious chemicals from the abdomen when disturbed, and when grabbed they bite viciously with large, sharp mandibles and sting with a long stinger that injects a painful toxin.  In addition, the hairs on their bodies are like tiny spears (called urticating hairs) that cause considerable irritation to the mouth and nasal passages of animals that attack them.”  See BugGuide for more information on Velvet Ants.

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Subject:  Velvet Ants!
Location:  Paso Robles, California
April 10, 2016
This one is from our house in Paso Robles. I decided to take its photo in the weeds, rather than move it to a nicer photo location 😀

Find the Velvet Ant

Find the Velvet Ant

Julian Donahue Responds
Glad it was useful; interesting differentiation between venom and pain.
Clare: your “velvet ant” picture looks like 100% vegetation–couldn’t make out the wasp at all! :-)
jpd

Dearest Clare,
We love your image, especially because many insects try harder to blend in than to stand out.  We have cropped your image for the internet so that we can challenge our readers to “Find the Velvet Ant” and we are going to try to identify your straw colored
Dasymutilla species.  Perhaps we will just challenge our readers to “Find the Name of the Velvet Ant” after they have located the Hymenopteran in your image.

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Subject: Red ant locking bug with black legs
Location: Corona, CA
April 10, 2016 11:14 pm
I found this little bug yesterday in the Cleveland National Forrest, Corona, CA. Can you tell what is it?
Signature: Peter

Velvet Ant

Velvet Ant

Dear Peter,
This is a flightless female wasp known as a Velvet Ant and she is reported to have a very painful sting.  Your Velvet Ant is in the genus
Dasymutilla, possibly Dasymutilla aureola pacifica based on this BugGuide image, though we suspect dissection of the genitalia may be the only way to properly determine the species.  The species may be identified, according to BugGuide, because “Females (wingless): Covered with red vestiture; thorax as broad as long, and the head is broader than the thorax.”  Perhaps it is the camera angle, but the head on your Velvet Ant does not appear to be broader than the thorax.  Perhaps based on this BugGuide image, your Velvet Ant might be Dasymutilla vestita.  We include the Velvet Ant on our Big Five link of “Bugs” that may result in an extremely painful and/or possibly deadly encounter, though that deadliness is far more likely to occur in the “Bug” than the human.

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Subject: Ant/wasp…i dunno
Location: Zimbabwe, Harare
April 10, 2016 3:05 am
Hi bugman
I found this bug i’ve never seen before. Actually it found me…ouch! Please let me know what it is.
Thanks
Signature: R.C

Velvet Ant

Velvet Ant

Dear R. C.,
Though they are commonly called Velvet Ants in North America, members of the family Mutillidae are actually wasps.  Males are winged and look like typical wasps, but flightless female Velvet Ants more closely resemble Ants.  Velvet Ants are reported to have a very painful sting.  If you are interested, our good friend Lepidopterist Julian Donahue just forwarded us this marvelous link to BBC Earth regarding Velvet Ants.

Thanks Daniel!
Very informative article.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination