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Four-spotted Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla quadriguttata)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Four-spotted Velvet Ant



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Image Credit: Pam H. from Franklin, TN
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Though she looks like an ant, this mimic is a walking wasp with a painful sting that victims are not likely to forget.



Updated: 03/23/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Dasymutilla quadriguttata is a type of velvet ant. The misleading name can be confusing since this is actually a type of wasp. Males have wings and fly like typical wasps, but females lack wings and are usually seen walking around pavement, patios, sidewalks, and streets. The Latin meaning of its name roughly means "hairy mutilate four droplets". It quite accurately describes this wasp. The fine hairs have a sheen that resembles velvet fabric, but attempts to touch the female will trigger her defensive stinging response which is known to be terribly painful. This particular species of velvet ant has an orange or red head and thorax with a black or red abdomen that usually sports four spots: two large, and two smaller ones that sit closer to its 'waist'. These four spots may be orange, red, or even shades of buttery yellow. Variation exists between individuals: some may not have visible spots, and some may have four similar-sized ones. Bands of yellow hairs cross the abdomen as it tapers to a point.

Little study has been done on this particular species, but most sightings occur in drier regions and in the summer or early autumn. The bright, alarming colors on this wasp encourage everything to keep its distance.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Hairy insect icon
Patterned insect icon
Insect stinger icon


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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Hymenoptera
        Family: Mutillidae
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          Genus: Dasymutilla
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            Species: quadriguttata
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Dasymutilla quadriguttata
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 13mm to 25mm (0.51" to 0.98")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: orange; black; red; yellow
Descriptors: two small dots; two large spots; four spots; dots; wasp; ant; orange head; red; walking; hairy; stinging; painful
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Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 13mm (0.5in) and 25mm (1.0in)
Lo: 13mm
Md: 19mm
Hi: 25mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Four-spotted Velvet Ant may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Four-spotted Velvet Ant. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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