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Yellow Velvet Ant (Dasymutilla spp.)

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

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Image Credit: Deanna A. from Casa Grande, AZ
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Image Credit: Deanna A. from Casa Grande, AZ
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The Yellow Velvet Ant is a stinging wasp in disguise and its colors and bristly hairs offer fair warning.

Updated: 01/06/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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: spp.

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Dasymutilla spp.
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 6mm to 25mm (0.23" to 0.98")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: yellow; black; white
Descriptors: hairy; stinging

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 6mm (0.2in) and 25mm (1.0in)
Lo: 6mm
Md: 15.5mm
Hi: 25mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Yellow 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 Yellow Velvet Ant. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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