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Thistle Down Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla gloriosa)


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



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Image Credit: Robert C. from Santa Clarita Valley, CA
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Image Credit: Robert C. from Santa Clarita Valley, CA
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Image Credit: Sarah M. from Hemet, CA
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Image Credit: Robert C. from Santa Clarita Valley, CA
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Image Credit: Robert C. from Santa Clarita Valley, CA
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Image Credit: Sarah M. from Hemet, CA
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Image Credit: Eric B. from Ventura County, CA
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The desert dwelling Thistle Down Velvet Ant is actually a wasp in disguise, delivering a far more painful sting than its cute, fluffly appearance implies.



Updated: 07/15/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Though it looks and walks like an ant, this hairy little creature is a wasp. The color of the hairs can vary from stark white to shades of yellow, but this wasp's sting is consistently painful no matter what color it is. This particular species mimics the yellow, fuzzy seeds of the creosote bush, blending in with the other debris around it to avoid predators. This also means that people should be careful when picking up random tufts of hairs on a desert hike for closer examination.

Larvae of the Thistle Down Velvet Ant are parasitic like many species of wasp. They feed on the larvae of the Sand Wasp. Females drop their eggs in the nest of the Sand Wasp and when the Velvet Ant larvae hatch, they consume the Sand Wasp larvae.

Adult Thistle Down Velvet Ants drink nectar. Males can be seen on flowers and they have wings. Females are wingless, but can use the stinger for defense since flight is not possible.




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




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: gloriosa
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Dasymutilla gloriosa
Other Name(s): Grey Velvet Ant
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 13mm to 16mm (0.51" to 0.62")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: white; black; gray; yellow
Descriptors: hairy, stinging, flying
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 13mm (0.5in) and 16mm (0.6in)
Lo: 13mm
Md: 14.5mm
Hi: 16mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Thistle Down 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 Thistle Down Velvet Ant. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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