Unfortunately, a classic combination of red and black warning colors may not be enough to keep someone from petting the fuzzy Red Velvet Ant.
Though it looks like a furry little ant, the Red Velvet Ant is actually a hairy, female wasp! Touching one is tempting fate. Males can fly, but females are wingless, and it is the female that can sting. She runs around the ground like ants do, confusing prey and predator alike. Velvet ants typically call arid regions of the Southwest U.S. and Mexico their home. All adults drink nectar from desert flowers and drink water where they can find it. Females lay their fertilized eggs in another wasp's or insect's nest. When the Red Velvet Ant larvae hatch, which is sooner than the other eggs, they begin to eat the other insect's eggs and any hatched larvae before they have a chance to escape. After pupating, the adult form of the Red Velvet Ant emerges.
Scientific Name: Dasymutilla magnifica
Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 18mm to 21mm (0.70in to 0.82in)
Note: An insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above as they are driven by environmental factors (such as climate change), available food supplies and mating patterns. Grayed-out selections indicate that the subject in question has not been reported in that particular territory. U.S. states and Canadian provinces / territories are clickable to their respective bug listings.
Ant, Bee, and Wasp Anatomy
Antennae: Ants and Bees both have a pair of antennae on the head that senses their surroundings.
Head: The head contains the insect's compound eyes, antennae, and mandibles.
Thorax: Contains various vital parts such as the aorta and nervous system.
Abdomen: Contains various organs including the heart, gut, venom glands, and anus.
Legs: Ants and Bees have three pairs of legs attached to the thorax (center-body section).
NOTE: Ants, Bees and Wasps are part of the Hymenoptera order because they share many similarities.