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.
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.