18 March 2013

Velvet Ant


That is a velvet ant.

It isn't really an ant at all.

It is a wingless wasp in the family Mutillidae. There are over 3000 species in this family whose female members all resemble large, hairy ants. They live in dry desert climates.

There are 400 species of these things in the southwestern US.

Their hair can be red, orange, silver, white, black, or gold.

They are also called cow killer ants because they have incredible painful stings and are known to attack cows and other livestock.

Unlike real ants, velvet ants are solitary. They do not have drones, workers, or queens.

They do have incredibly hard exoskeletons that are known for breaking the steel pins used by entomologists.

Eggs are laid inside other insect nests, near the young of the home insect. When they hatch, the velvet ant young kill and eat the larva of the home insect.

The female has a long movable stinger.

Velvet ants are known to squeal when stepped on or crushed.

The more you know...