Velvet Ant

Common Name: Velvet Ant

Latin Name: Many species in numerous genera

Common Family Name: Velvet ants

Latin Family Name: Mutillidae

Other Names: Mutillids, cow killer

Origin: There are many native species of these insects in North America.

Biology: The velvet “ants” are actually wasps, but the female has no wings and resembles a large, hairy ant. These are solitary wasps whose larvae are parasites on the larvae and pupae of a variety of other insects, including other wasps and bees, beetles, and flies. The active females seek out a suitable food source for her larvae, lays her eggs on the larva or pupa she finds, and the developing velvet ant larva devours this food material. Male velvet ants are similar but smaller, and they have well developed wings and can fly. Females can sting while males cannot. The females may be found rapidly walking over the soil surface in their search for food.

Identification: Most velvet ants are fairly large, from ¼ inch to over 1 inch in length. They are covered with long hairs of bright colors, from red to orange to yellow to white, or combinations of several colors. The antennae of the females tend to be curled.

Characteristics Important in Control: There is no need to control these beneficial insects. Care should be taken not to handle the females in order to avoid being stung.