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Red Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla magnifica)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Red Velvet Ant

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Image Credit: Erik G. from Sedona, AZ
Full-sized image of the Red-Velvet-Ant Thumbnail image of the Red-Velvet-Ant

Unfortunately, a classic combination of red and black warning colors may not be enough to keep someone from petting the fuzzy Red Velvet Ant.

Updated: 07/09/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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.

General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Hairy insect icon
Harmful insect 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: magnifica
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Dasymutilla magnifica
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 18mm to 21mm (0.70" to 0.82")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; red
Descriptors: stinging, harmful, fuzzy, hairy

Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 18mm (0.7in) and 21mm (0.8in)
Lo: 18mm
Md: 19.5mm
Hi: 21mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Red 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 Red Velvet Ant. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.


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