Why Are Velvet Ants Hard To Kill? How To Get Rid Of Them?

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Did you know that getting rid of velvet ants is quite a hassle? Why are velvet ants hard to kill, and how can you get rid of them? We answer these important questions in the article below.

Velvet ants are brightly colored insects belonging to the wasp family. Confused? 

Well, velvet ants or cow killer ants are actually a type of wasp – but the wingless females are often mistaken for ants. Except for the extremely painful sting they can deliver! 

They’re hard to kill due to their hard exoskeleton and sting, and they also have many adaptations to keep predators away from them.

Why Are Velvet Ants Hard To Kill
Velvet Ant

However, you will be happy to know that it isn’t impossible to kill them. You can get rid of them using insecticides and certain sprays, and we will also talk about that. 

What Are Velvet Ants? 

Velvet ants are a type of wasp. There are many Velvet Ant species, but the Red velvet ants (Dasymutilla occidentalis) are one of the most commonly seen ones across North America and Australia. 

They are black colored with bright orange hair on their backs.

Males have black, transparent wings but can only fly close to the ground. The females are wingless but protect themselves with their stinger. 

Why Are Velvet Ants Hard To Kill?

Female velvet ants have virtually no potential predators – even among animals commonly known to eat small invertebrates. This is because they have multiple defense mechanisms that make them unappealing prey: 


Bright colors are nature’s way of letting predators know that a particular animal or insect is either venomous or dangerous in some way – be it due to their spines, sting, or aggressiveness.

Examples include the ladybird beetles that have a bright red color or the larval stage of Cinnabar moths which are orange and black in color.

Velvet ants also employ this method and have bright orange fuzzy hair on their head and abdomen. 


Adult velvet ants of both genders produce a loud, squeaking noise by rubbing their body parts against their abdomen. This is known as stridulation. 

Stridulation serves two main purposes. Firstly, to warn natural predators that the animal or insect they are approaching is dangerous. 

Secondly, in some insects like crickets, it is also used to attract mates

Chemical Alarms

Velvet ants produce a vile, chemical odor when threatened. 

Some insects release a mixture of pheromones when in danger as a chemical alarm. These alarms warn predators against the insect as they may be dangerous. 

Another purpose is that it warns other insects of the same species regarding nearby danger and ensures their survival. 

Hard Exoskeleton

An exoskeleton refers to a hardened outer layer on the body (made of chitin) that some bugs have. This skeleton serves as a protective layer and also is the shell to which the rest of their ligaments and muscles are attached. 

Insects with hard exoskeletons, like the velvet ants, are difficult to crush. 

Powerful Sting

The velvet ant can deliver a painful sting that is non-fatal and not venomous. Their sting is rated a 3 out of 4 on the Schmidt Pain Index for insect sting measure. The pain of their sting takes over half an hour to subside. 

Velvet Ant

How To Get Rid of Them?

Velvet ants are usually solitary. However, if you have a garden or lawn, it’s possible for many of them to get into your house. If you are sure that the insects are Velvet ants, then there are many simple ways to get rid of them: 

Identification and Inspection

The first step is to identify their nesting ground and the cause that is allowing them to thrive. 

Look for open, sunny spaces either with lots of nectar supplies (like flowers) or areas with another host larva, such as a ground-nesting bee colony. 

You can identify a nest by checking for circular holes in the ground with mounds around them. A bunch of these holes together signifies a colony of ground-nesting bees. 

This could be where your wasp leeches off. 

Gearing up

The next step is getting ready to treat the infestation. Since these wasps are stinging insects, you need to wear a PPE kit and thick clothing and make sure every inch of your body is covered.

You should also wear a mask as they can release chemicals. A bee-keeping suit works well. 

Velvet Ant


  • After this, you can apply insecticide to your flowering plants to prevent them from taking nectar. Do a patch test beforehand to check if your plants have any sensitivity to the insecticide being used. 
  • Next, you can use insecticidal dust and dust the areas in and around the nesting site. Repeat this after a few days. You can use a handheld duster to direct the jet. 
  • You might also notice individual wingless females and winged males flying around. Spray them with wasp spray aerosol from a distance. Make sure to do this on a non-windy day to allow the spray jet to reach its target. 
  • Check actively for any active nest. If the nests are non-active, you can remove them from the soil. 

Follow up

  • After this, make sure you turn the soil from time to time to deter insect growth again. You can reapply insecticidal dust and mow your lawn to keep growth short. 
  • Kill any individual ants you see by using the spray. Spray should be applied from at least a distance of 6 feet, and optimally 15 feet. 

It’s best not to keep ornamental plants – however, it is up to you. One thing you should definitely not do is try to pick them up or crush them. The velvet ant sting is not something to be taken lightly! 

Male Velvet Ant

Preventing Velvet Ants 

Getting rid of any species of the velvet ant is not a large task. They do not congregate in groups, and you won’t come across a horde of them. 

For dealing with small numbers, you can use insecticides combined with hornet spray or even nectar traps for them to get stuck in. 

However, after getting rid of them – make sure you get rid of all nests to prevent further growth. 

To prevent them from getting into your home, make sure you get the spray into all nooks and crannies. Cut down any branches of trees touching your windows or home. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can you step on a velvet ant?

No, velvet ants have a hard exoskeleton that makes stepping on them useless, as they don’t get crushed. Moreover, stepping on them will result in a painful sting. These stings are what gave the velvet ants the nickname of cow killers.

Where do velvet ants nest?

The female velvet ant does not create her own nest. Instead, they intrude into existing insect nests and lay eggs on top of the defenseless pupa. 
Once the velvet ants hatch, they eat the pupae to survive. Their nests are found in holes within the topsoil of open, sunny areas.

Do velvet ants live in nests?

Velvet ants do not live in nests. They hatch as larvae and feed on the host pupae before going into chrysalis themselves. 
As an adult, they move out of the nest and feed on nectar. They do not live in their own nests but take over the nests of other insects. 

What happens if a velvet ant bites you?

The powerful sting can trigger an allergic reaction in those allergic to its sting. However, common symptoms include localized redness, swelling, and pain. 
The pain subsides soon, and with a cold compress and some salt, the redness should eventually go down as well.

Velvet Ant

Wrap Up

We hope this information helped you in knowing how to get rid of velvet ants. Like other wasps, they are susceptible to strong pesticides and are commonly found in over-the-counter sprays. If you live in an area that’s prone to them, it’s best to keep a spray handy for the odd one that finds its way into your home.

Thank you for reading. 

Reader Emails

Over the years, frustrated readers have often asked us this question and have also shared some of their tips and tricks in dealing with these pests. 

While we have covered some of them in the article below, please go through the discussions for more detailed insights. Perhaps one of the solutions might work in your case as well!

Letter 1 – Velvet Ant


some sort of furry ant
Saw this bug in Bend, OR. Is it a type of ant? What is it called?
Lisa Ray

Hi Lisa,
This is a Velvet Ant, a flightless female wasp. We believe it might be Dasymutilla sackenii. It ranges from Baja to Oregon and is white in the southern portion of its range and more golden in the northern portion of its range.

Letter 2 – Velvet Ant


Arizona insect
I was recently in Arizona and while in the Flagstaff area I came across this bug and was wondering if you could help me identify it. I have tried looking online but can ‘t find anything like it. Thank you for your time,
Dawn Webb

Hi Dawn,
This is a flightless female wasp known as a Velvet Ant. We believe it is Dasymutilla klugii based on an image on BugGuide.

Update: (04/02/2008) ID for insects
Hey, my name is Will, this is a list of the ID’s for the velvet ant page. image 10. Dasymutilla Magnifica, klugii is more restricted to Texas. hope this helps a bit.

Letter 3 – Velvet Ants


I live in Rock Hill, SC and came across this insect while I was weeding the monkey grass. It was about about inch long, had three body sections like an ant but it’s body was fuzzy like a bumble bee. It was bright red with black stripes like a bee, no wings but had six black legs. It didn’t move very fast but crawled along the monkey grass and yard. Can you tell me what this was?

Sounds like a Velvet Ant, (Dasymutilla occidentalis) a female flightless wasp, capable of delivering quite a sting. They are sometimes known as cow-killers or mule-killers, and are feared by tobacco farmers who often get stung. See if this photo matches.

Letter 4 – Velvet Ant


Double red headed bug?
Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 12:23 PM
I was mineral hounding in southern california a few days ago and found this bug(?) underneath a stone. Although the picture isn`t good, you can recognize its kind of fluffy red head, the antennae and the six legs. The the size was just below an inch.
Thank you for your help
Riverside, California

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Hi Patrick,
Your photo is blurry, and we are far from experts in the genus Dasymutilla, the Velvet Ants.  Female Velvet Ants are flightless wasps that can sting painfully.  The harmless male wasps have wings.  If we were to hazard a guess, we would saty that this is Dasymutilla aureola pacifica based on images posted to BugGuide.

Letter 5 – Velvet Ant


6 legged fuzzy backed beetle
Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 7:05 PM
I am in Bakersfield, California and was bitten while feeding my horses by this 6 legged fuzzy beetle. It crawled into my shoe and bit through my sock. Very painful like a wasp sting. The area is by a river that is dry and lots of empty scrubland.
Can you identify him from these scans of him? He was not very cooperative and was difficult to make him stand still. I will now extract my revenge and feed his happy little self to some chickens. Thanks for your time.
Michael Beilby
Bakersfiel, California

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Hi Michael,
We just drove through Bakersfield on the way back from Mendocino, and it was a scorcher.  This is a Velvet Ant, a flightless female wasp, which would explain why her “bite” felt like a wasp sting.  It actually was a wasp sting.  We believe this is Dasymutilla sackenii based on images posted to BugGuide. Non-stinging males of the species, indeed of the entire family Mutilidae, have wings and resemble other wasps.

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Letter 6 – Velvet Ant


What kind of bug is it
August 9, 2009
I live in northwest arizona and have seen this bug occassionaly.
Debra D Hand
NE Arizona Golden Valley

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Hi Debra,
This is a Velvet Ant, a flightless female wasp.  We believe it is Dasymutilla magnifica based on images posted to BugGuide and the range in Arizona and California.

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Letter 7 – Velvet Ant


Timulla Grotei? Velvet Ant of some type?
Location:  Seminole, Oklahoma
July 24, 2010 6:00 pm
I think I’ve identified this properly! I found this little lady (?) on some leaves in central Oklahoma (Seminole). It was about 1/2-3/4” long and a little hairy. Love your site!
Amy Goodman

Velvet Ant

Hi Amy,
You did an excellent job of identifying your Velvet Ant, though we would caution taking the identification to the species level.  We looked at the specimens of
Timulla grotei posted to BugGuide, and though they look similar to your specimen, the abdominal markings seem different.  There are many similar looking species in the genus Timulla posted to BugGuideOne image in particular, also from Oklahoma, is only identified to the genus level, and that image more closely resembles your gal, though the legs are differently colored.  YOur photos are excellent and perhaps an expert in Velvet Ants will be able to provide a species identification.

Velvet Ant

Letter 8 – Velvet Ant


Velvet Ant in Sonoma County?
Location:  Sonoma Mountan Range, California
July 31, 2010 3:07 pm
Hi, I found this fuzzy ant-like insect in a grassy meadow in jack london state park. Earlier this summer I saw one on the same mountain range a little north in Santa Rosa, also on open meadow. What is it? Looks like a ”velevet ant” but do you know the species? The camera was on a weird setting, so the light is a little orange, but I tried to adjust it to be more accurate
Mollyanne Meyn

Velvet Ant

Hi Mollyanne,
You are correct that this is a Velvet Ant.  We tried to color correct your image.  It appears that your specimen might be in the genus Pseudomethoca which is represented on BugGuide.  We would greatly welcome any input from experts in the family Mutillidae to assist in a proper species identification.

Thanks Daniel, from other  on the site, it looks most like anthracina to me. I love this website and service. many thanks for the response.

Letter 9 – Velvet Ant Carnage


What the heck is this?
Location:  Houston, TX
October 3, 2010 2:03 pm
My dad was outside and this bug started crawling towards him. I took him many tries for him to actually kill the bug so I’m sorry that the bug is torn up in these pictures. We’ve never seen one like it and we would really be interested in knowing. It looks kind of like a wingless wasp and has a stinger, but also looks like a spider.
Signature:  Texas Girl

Velvet Ant Carnage

Dear Texas Girl,
These are the mutilated remains of a Velvet Ant, most likely a Cowkiller, so named because its sting is reported to be so painful.  Velvet Ants are flightless female wasps.  We hope we are never in a position to be approaching your father if it might incite a similar response of Unnecessary Carnage just because we might look unfamiliar or different.  Granted, the sting of a Velvet Ant is reported to be quite painful, but it is not the intent of a Velvet Ant to sting indiscriminately, but rather, to sting if it feels threatened due to careless handling.

Letter 10 – Velvet Ant


Unknown bug
Location: Southern Arizona
January 16, 2011 2:13 pm
Here’s a little guy I found in the lowlands of southern Arizona.
Signature: Richard

Velvet Ant

Hi Richard,
This little beauty is a Velvet Ant in the genus
Dasymutilla, but we are unable to determine the exact species.  We found at least three species on Bugguide with similar markings.  Our leading candidate is Dasymutilla nogalensis which has been reported from Arizona on BugGuide.  Another strong contender is Dasymutilla magnifica which BugGuide reports from California and Nevada as well as Arizona.  Another look alike is Dasymutilla klugii which BugGuide does not report from Arizona, but which is reported from Colorado and Texas.  Velvet Ants are actually flightless female wasps and they are reported to pack a wallop of a sting, so handle them with care.  Interestingly, there is extreme sexual dimorphism in Velvet Ants and males which do not have a stinger possess wings.  They are also often quite different in their markings from the females.

Velvet Ant

Thank you for supplying us with multiple camera angles.

Velvet Ant

Letter 11 – Velvet Ant


terribel painful sting
Location: woodland hill, california
July 26, 2011 9:49 pm
everywhere this year – been here 15 years and never seen this bug
black body – does not fly – looks like a white clover flower –
terribly painful sting
Signature: cheers

Velvet Ant

Dear cheers,
We do not want to even attempt a species identification from such a blurry image, but we can tell that this is a Velvet Ant, and you are correct, they are reported to have an extremely painful sting.  Velvet Ants are flightless female wasps, and may have bright orange and red coloration with black markings.  Under no circumstances should Velvet Ants be handled with bare hands.  A sting is sure to follow.


Conditions were right.  Unseasonal rains may have contributed.

Letter 12 – Velvet Ant


Possible fire ant
Location: Memphis tn
August 15, 2011 11:31 pm
My brother was laying on the floor playing with his Ipod and felt something crawly on him he shifts and next thing he knows lots of pain. I would like yo know what bug this is. I stomped it 6 times and it’s still alive. Under further investigation I saw it had a red 2mm long and .1mm or smaller wide singer (not visible in picture) which was completely retractable into the abdoment.
Signature: Ender670

Velvet Ant

Dear Ender670,
This is not a Fire Ant.  It is a Velvet Ant, but Velvet Ants are not true ants.  They are flightless female wasps, which is why your brother got stung.  The sting is reported to be very painful.  We believe your species is
Dasymutilla quadriguttata based on images posted to BugGuide.

Letter 13 – Velvet Ant and (almost) Mating Mud Daubers


Subject: A velvet ant & unrequited wasp love. Attempt number two.
Location: Palmyra, NJ & Philadelphia, PA
July 31, 2012 11:58 am
Please forgive me if these two photos have been previously received. I attempted to submit these late last week, however I didn’t get a confirmation E-mail so I’m not sure if my submission was successful.
The photos were taken on Sunday July 22, 2012. The first one was taken at Palmyra Cove Nature Park in Palmyra, NJ. (Had I realized that August’s bug of the month was the cow killer I would have taken a few photos of that species when I was there yesterday.) It took two trips to the park and three encounters with this particular species of velvet ant before I was able to get a photo of it.
The 1st time we came across one, she ran and hid in her burrow before I was able to get my phone out and snap a photo.
The 2nd encounter was in a grassy area & due to the grass obstructing the wasp I wasn’t able to capture a photo. I tried to coax her out into the open using a small twig, but she started to make an audible squeaking sound that told me that it was time to back off.
Finally on the third encounter, we found one in an open sandy area. Though she tried to run, she had more than enough space to run for me to have the time to get out my phone and take a picture.
After doing some research, with the aid of your site, I believe that I’ve identified her as Dasymutilla Vesta. Though, I could easily be wrong as I am no expert on insects.
After returning home from the park I noticed this pair of what I believe are black and yellow mud daubers trying to get busy on the Helenium that I planted a few years ago. Though, I’m not sure if the female was interested. The male was jabbing away furiously at the female’s abdomen but he never seemed to find his mark. Perhaps we killed the mood by barging in on them, or perhaps she had a headache.
I’ve taken a few other photos of some other insects at Palmyra Cove that I wouldn’t mind sharing with you, provided that multiple submissions from one individual wouldn’t be a nuisance. I honestly think that I’m one of the few people who go to that park mainly to see the insect life over any of the other wildlife that lives there.
Thank you for your time.
Signature: Dave

Velvet Ant

Hi Dave,
Thanks for your persistence.  We did receive your original submission, and we intended to post it, but alas, we didn’t get to it and suddenly your email got buried under the deluge of summer identification requests we receive.  Thank you again for resending.  We cannot for certain identify the Velvet Ant to the species level, but another possibility based on BugGuide images and range information might be the genus
Ephuta.   We have heard the squeaking noise you describe and for such tiny creatures, Velvet Ants are able to make a disproportionate amount of noise.  We will nonetheless tag this as a Bug Love entry even though you didn’t actually capture the mating act with your camera.  We would love to receive other submissions from you, especially of species that are not well represented on our site or images that are exceptional for other reasons.
Please in the future, only submit one specimen at a time.  We like to have each posting be a distinct species unless there is some relationship between two species that is significant.

Black and Yellow Mud Daubers

Letter 14 – Velvet Ant


Subject: Velvet Ant
Location: Cookeville, TN
September 18, 2012 9:58 am
I was recently camping in Cookeville, TN when this colorful bug came running through our campsite. A couple days later I was able to identify it as a female Red Velvet Ant. I thought you may like to have these photos for your archives.
Sorry they aren’t a little more focused, the pics were taken on my phone and that little bugger is FAST!
I heard rumors that the blue ones lived there too but I wasn’t lucky enough to see one.
Signature: Lex

Velvet Ant

Hi Lex,
Thanks for sending in your photo.  It nicely depicts the coloration and markings of the Velvet Ant commonly called a Cowkiller.

Letter 15 – Velvet Ant


Subject: Curious about an unknown bug
Location: Found hidden in the dirt.
May 3, 2013 12:26 am
Hello, bugman. I was wondering around in the backyard earlier today and I found this very interesting bug. I’m not sure what it really is, but i was really curious to find out. I captured it and now I have it in a open container I made for it. I asked some friends and family if they might know it but no. I tried finding pictures or websites that might help me identify the bug, but no help. Then I ran into whatsthatbug.com! I’m not really sure how to explain what type of bug it is but to me, it looks like a bee or a fly mixed with another insect. I’m not too sure, but i’ll leave it to the experts! I’d love to hear back! Thank you so much!
Signature: Miguel

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Dear Miguel,
Handle this gal with caution.  She is a Velvet Ant, a flightless female wasp reported to have a very painful sting.  We don’t want to try to identify your Velvet Ant to the species level without a location.  If you are in Arizona, this might be
Dasymutilla eminentia which is pictured on BugGuide.

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Letter 16 – Velvet Ant


Subject: What is this?
Location: Simi Valley, CA USA
May 30, 2013 6:40 pm
My daughter just brought this into our house. What is it? It looks like a cross between a bee and a furry spider. She found it in the sand. Thank you!
Signature: Reg

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Dear Reg,
Tell your daughter to be cautious.  This is a Velvet Ant in the genus
Dasymutilla.  Velvet Ants are flightless female wasps that are reported to have a very painful sting.  They are not aggressive, but they do defend themselves.  We are not certain of the species, but this might be Dasymutilla sackenii since it is close to this photo on BugGuide.  We are postdating your submission to go live in early June while we are out of the office.

Letter 17 – Velvet Ant


Subject: Odd bug on cucumbers
Location: Houston texas
July 27, 2013 2:32 pm
Found these on my cucumbers. They were not bothering me but it seems the more of them that show up the worse my cucumbers are doing.
Signature: Thanks, chris

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Hi Chris,
This is a Velvet Ant, a flightless female wasp.  While she will not harm your cucumbers, you should exercise caution and not handle this Velvet Ant as they are reported to deliver a very painful sting.  Based on photos posted to BugGuide, we believe this might be
Dasymutilla quadriguttata.

Letter 18 – Velvet Ant


Subject: what kind of bug is this?
Location: Southern Maryland
August 21, 2013 10:53 am
I found this bug in my sons room. I thought it was a ant but when I tried to kill it, it squeaks and then I looked at it closer and it did not look like any ant I have ever seen. My son is allergic to ants and I am a little concerned because this bug looks mean.
Signature: Angela N.

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Dear Angela,
This is a Velvet Ant, which is actually a flightless female wasp reported to have a very painful sting.  They should not be handled.  Thank you for providing both a dorsal and ventral view.

Velvet Ant ventral view
Velvet Ant ventral view

Letter 19 – Velvet Ant


Subject: Unkown bug in Central Oregon
Location: Prineville, OR
May 25, 2014 8:06 pm
I found this bug crawling on the ground while hiking in Central Oregon and don’t know what it is. If you can find out and let me know I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.
Signature: Merrie Gregor

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Hi Merrie,
Despite the blurriness of your image, we have no doubt that this is a Velvet Ant, a flightless female wasp in the family Mutillidae.
  We don’t know if Dasymutilla satanas, which is reported on BugGuide from California and Nevada, ranges as far north as Oregon, but it looks like a pretty good match, as does Dasymutilla aureola, also pictured on BugGuide.

Letter 20 – Velvet Ant


Subject: Kern River fuzzy bug
Location: Kernville, CA (campsite near kern river)
May 31, 2014 6:30 pm
We saw this little guy in the sand at our campsite at the Kern River today (June 1st, 2014).
We only counted 6 legs at the time.
Signature: Kristen

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Hi Kristen,
This is a Velvet Ant in the genus
Dasymutilla, and we believe it might be Dasymutilla sackenii based on the images posted to BugGuide.  Velvet Ants should be handled with extreme caution since they are actually flightless female wasps reputed to have a very painful sting.

Letter 21 – Velvet Ant


Subject: Ant
Location: north central Texas
July 1, 2014 7:55 am
Can you identify this ant? It has a stinger that looks smaller than a human hair and extends about half its body length. the sting is extremely painful, i have been stung twice. the body is very hard almost like concrete. whats a good and safe way to get rid of these?
Signature: Thank You Tammy Daniel

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Hi Tammy,
Though it resembles an ant and it is called a Velvet Ant, this insect is actually a flightless female wasp in the family Mutillidae and you are correct that the sting is reported to be quite painful.  We cannot say for certain which species this is, but it resembles the members of the genus
Timulla pictured on BugGuide.

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Letter 22 – Velvet Ant


Subject: Ant or mite?
Location: Sonoran Desert, Arizona
September 16, 2014 6:01 pm
Is this a Thistledown Velvet Ant? I stopped to take a break and my eye caught this little critter moving rather quickly on the trail. When I bent down to get a closer look, it stopped and put its rear end up at me. I moved to get a view of the front, but everywhere I went, this little guy turned its butt to me. This was the only photo it would let me get! This was on a trail at Granite Mountain in the Rio Verde Foothills area northeast of Scottsdale, in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.
Signature: Paige

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Dear Paige,
We are confident that this is a Velvet Ant, but we cannot state for certain that it is a Thistledown Velvet Ant.

Letter 23 – Velvet Ant found under mattress


Subject: bug under matress
Location: charleston, south Carolina
May 9, 2015 2:57 pm
Hi there, so I was lifting up my mattress the other day to put sheets on the bed and found this little guy… my main concern of course is bed bugs but it looks to be bigger than most of those and I don’t have any bites. Just trying to figure out what this thing is and if I need to take any actions before it’s a problem. He was about an 1/4 inch long
Signature: thank you

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

This is most certainly NOT a Bed Bug.  Though there is not much detail in your image, we are relatively confident this is a Velvet Ant.  Velvet Ants will not infest your home and we believe this is an accidental introduction.  Velvet Ants are actually flightless female wasps that are reported to deliver a very painful sting, so while it will not infest your home, you should handle it with caution.

Letter 24 – Velvet Ant


Subject: Red looking ant, no fuzz
Location: Ct
August 21, 2015 12:58 pm
Found a few of these near my sons sandbox and wondering if they sting.
Signature: Allison

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Dear Allison,
This is a Velvet Ant, a flightless female wasp and they do sting, and the sting is reported to be painful, but not dangerous.  There are many similar looking species and this looks like it might be  
Dasymutilla gibbosa based on this BugGuide image.

Letter 25 – Find the Velvet Ant in the Straw


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! 🙂

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.

Letter 26 – Velvet Ant


Subject: Big red ant?
Location: Central Florida
October 29, 2016 9:52 am
Found this ant crawling around on my patio in central Florida, late October but still plenty warm. Never seen such a big ant here before and would like to know if they are an issue.
Signature: William

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Dear William,
This Velvet Ant, which is actually a flightless female wasp that can deliver a very painful sting if carelessly handled, appears to be
Dasymutilla archboldi which is pictured on BugGuide and found in Florida.

Letter 27 – Velvet Ant


Subject: What is this??
Location: Fillmore, California
November 25, 2016 4:55 pm
Can you tell me what kind of bug this is I found crawling in my backyard?
Signature: Kristianne

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Dear Kristianne,
This is a Velvet Ant, a flightless female wasp in the genus
Dasymutilla.  Velvet Ants should be handled with extreme caution as they are reported to have a very painful sting.  Based on images posted to BugGuide, we believe your Velvet Ant might be Dasymutilla sackenii.

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant


Letter 28 – Velvet Ant


Subject: Weird bug
Location: Wyoming
January 20, 2017 9:01 pm
I found this weird bug in my house and can’t figure out what it is.
Signature: Amber

Velvet Ant

Dear Amber,
Though your insect is a member of a group commonly called Velvet Ants, it is actually a flightless female wasp in the family Mutillidae.  Velvet Ants are not aggressive but they should be handled with caution as they are reported to deliver a very painful sting.

Letter 29 – Velvet Ant


Subject: Re: What kind of bug is this?
Location: Redlands, Ca
July 8, 2017 9:44 pm
I live in Redlands, Ca. This afternoon I found a insect that resembles a tarantula. I took a few photos then walked away because it seemed extremely scared of me (which is understandable).
If you can identify this insect and let me know what it is I would appreciate it.
Signature: Jennifer

Velvet Ant

Dear Jennifer,
This is a flightless female wasp in the genus
Dasymutilla, the Velvet Ants.  We are not certain of the species, but it might be Dasymutilla sackenii based on this BugGuide image.  Velvet Ants are reported to have a very painful sting.

Letter 30 – Velvet Ant


Subject: What bug is this
Location: Houma Louisiana
August 5, 2017 7:16 pm
We have no clue what kind of bug this is would like to know if possible because it bit my cousin we live in south Louisiana and it’s summer time here any info would be helpful thank you
Signature: Linda

velvet ant stings

I know what a velvet ant is because I use to live in Mississippi and had them bad there it looks nothing like that   And there’s no velvet on it anywhere

Velvet Ant

Hi again Linda,
This is a Velvet Ant in the family Mutillidae
.  The most commonly encountered Velvet Ant in the eastern U.S. is the Cowkiller, Dasymutilla occidentalis, and that species is indeed velvety.  There is much diversity in the genus, especially in the western states, where you find the Thistledown Velvet Ant which doesn’t look much like the Cowkiller.  Velvet Ants are actually flightless female wasps and they are reported to have a very painful sting.  Your individual resembles this unidentified Velvet Ant on BugGuide.

Letter 31 – Velvet Ant


Subject: Large fuzzy ant
Location: Nevada
August 11, 2017 2:11 am
Hello! I found this lil’ guy tonight. I was watching TV when I found them crawling on my arm. I’ve never seen something like this before; what are they? And are they dangerous ? ( brown, 2 white stripes)
Signature: – thank you so much!

Velvet Ant

Commonly called a Velvet Ant, your insect is actually a flightless female wasp in the family Mutilidae.  The closest match we could locate on BugGuide is identified as Dasymutilla vestita, but curiously, it looks like none of the other representatives of the species posted to BugGuide.  Velvet Ants should be handled with extreme caution.  They are reported to have a very painful sting.

Letter 32 – Velvet Ant


Subject:  Velvet Ant
Geographic location of the bug:  San Jacinto Wildlife Area, Riverside, CA
Date: 09/18/2017
Time: 01:20 PM EDT
Found this furry guy (actually a gal as she is wingless) crawling along the ground while I was out taking bird photos this past weekend. Thankfully, I was alerted to her presence before she had a chance to crawl up my leg! After a circle around my chair leg, she moved on. Thanks for helping me identify her and many other species!
How you want your letter signed:  Suzanne

Velvet Ant

Dear Suzanne,
The only Velvet Ant in the genus
Dasymutilla with a velvety black body and a red abdomen reported from California on BugGuide is Dasymutilla magnifica.  Your images are gorgeous.

Velvet Ant
Velvet Ant

Letter 33 – Velvet Ant


Subject:  Is it a bug? A spider? What is it?
Geographic location of the bug:  Southern California hills
Date: 10/17/2017
Time: 03:56 PM EDT
My Cub Scouts found this guy on the trail in the hills of Southern California on a warm October early evening. Any idea what he is?
How you want your letter signed:  Dawn

Velvet Ant

Dear Dawn,
Your Scouts encountered an insect commonly called a Velvet Ant, actually a flightless female Wasp that packs quite a painful sting.  There are many species of Velvet Ants in the world, and Southern California might have the greatest diversity of these members of the family Mutillidae.  We will attempt a species identification for you.

Update:  BugGuideBased on this image, this might be Dasymutilla californica.

Letter 34 – Velvet Ant


Subject:  Fuzzy white bee
Geographic location of the bug:  Henderson, NV
Date: 10/17/2017
Time: 04:12 PM EDT
Found what looks like a white fuzzy bee on the ground, I couldn’t tell if it had wings.
How you want your letter signed:  Dani

Velvet Ant

Dear Dani,
This is a Velvet Ant, a flightless female wasp in the family Mutillidae.  The closest visual match we could locate on BugGuide is this image of
Dasymutilla thetis.  You should not attempt to handle any Velvet Ants you encounter.  The sting is reported to be quite painful.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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14 Comments. Leave new

  • Geez, what a bunch of bleeding-heart hippies you guys are. You’re acting like he killed a baby or something like that. It’s just a bloody insect that the guy killed, so get over it.

    • Tolerance needs to begin somewhere and the lower beasts is a good place to start. Appreciation of the natural world and its wonders is part of our educational mission. We would most certainly have had a stronger reaction had he “killed a baby”.

  • cedillamuerta
    June 22, 2012 4:02 pm

    Not an expert, just very interested and somewhat well read. This individual possesses traits consistent with Timulla vagans.

  • I was lucky not to have stepped on it and no longer go barefoot in the grasses!! It was only because the wasp was moving that I saw it.

  • Reply
  • Found this wasp in my backyard this morning. I had to go looking to identify. Absolutely this insect, so not restricted to Texas. I am in Riverside, CA.

  • Lea Belcher
    July 23, 2017 5:48 pm

    l have been seeing these walking around on the frame of my pool good to know they are velvet ants because l was only aware of the furry black and red ones

  • Bleeding heart hippies? Killed a baby? Some people will always find something to complain or be offended about. Keep doing what youre doing guys, the work and education is much appreciated.
    I can hear him now, “How dare you call them ‘guys’ like they could only be men! You dont think women could be insect researchers??? You xenophobe, white privilege blah blah blah” 😉

  • Bleeding heart hippies? Killed a baby? Some people will always find something to complain or be offended about. Keep doing what youre doing guys, the work and education is much appreciated.
    I can hear him now, “How dare you call them ‘guys’ like they could only be men! You dont think women could be insect researchers??? You xenophobe, white privilege blah blah blah” 😉

  • a lot of insects seem to have disappeared or have way reduced numbers where I live in upper green river basin do you have reports or knowledge of this happening in other areas?

  • We saw one today as we were walking in Sisters, Oregon. Unmistakable that we saw the same bug.

  • I have seen 2 in Sisters this past week.


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