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Velvet Ant
(John Obermeyer, Purdue University)
Common Name: Velvet Ant

Order: Hymenoptera

Family: Mutillidae

Pest Status: Velvet ants are not considered pests even though they can deliver a powerful sting if mishandled.

Appearance: Velvet ants are actually wasps, not ants. Females are wingless and covered with dense hair and may reach about 3/4-inch in length. Males are similar, but are slightly smaller and have wings. They are black overall with distinctive patches of dense orange-red hair on the thorax and abdomen.

Life Cycle: Females feed on the immature stages of ground-nesting bees, digging into the nesting chambers and parasitizing the young. They deposit their eggs on the host larvae. Eggs soon hatch into white, legless grubs, and parasitize the hosts. Velvet ants develop through several larval instars before forming pupae.

Where to Collect: Adults are most common during the warmest summer months. Lone females can be found running very quickly on the ground, particularly in open, sandy areas.