The Yellow Velvet Ant is a stinging wasp in disguise and its colors and bristly hairs offer fair warning.
Despite its name, the Velvet Ant is not an ant at all! It is a type of wasp. True ants have bent antennae and a twice-constricted waist. Velvet Ants have straight wasp-like antennae and have only one waist. They are mainly found in the arid and semi-arid states of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. This type of wasp is mostly solitary and does not live in a nest with others. Only the male has wings and can fly. The grounded female, however, can deliver a painful sting and should not be trifled with. It is not considered aggressive and is more likely to try to escape from people rather than engage. Both sexes have dense, short yellow or orange-yellow hairs covering the body and black legs.
Yellow Velvet Ant larvae are parasitic. Females lay their fertilized wasp eggs in the nest of other bees or wasps. The Yellow Velvet Ant larvae hatch first and then devour the other species' larvae. Adult Yellow Velvet Ants feed on water and nectar.
Scientific Name: Dasymutilla spp.
Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 6mm to 25mm (0.23in to 0.98in)
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.