The classic warning colors and a spiky coat hint that the Red Velvet Ant is not to be trifled with.
Although they look like fuzzy little ants, Velvet ants are actually hairy wasps! They run around the ground like ants, but are capable of delivering a very painful sting like any wasp. They call arid regions of the Southwest U.S. and Mexico home. Males can fly, but females are wingless. It is the female that can sting. 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. The Red Velvet Ant larvae hatch first and eat the insect's larvae before they have a chance to escape.
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.