Velvet Ant Wasp
Velvet Ant Facts
Commonly described as: cow killer, mule killer
The velvet ant wasp, contrary to what many believe, is not an ant. It is actually a wasp, despite its outward appearance of an ant.
These bright-red insects with black stripes are also commonly referred to as the “cow killer ants” because of the myth that their sting is “so powerful it could kill a cow.” Despite this reputation, velvet ants are not particularly aggressive, and instead will flee from the sight of danger or humans. A female velvet ant's sting is used as a last resort for defense, and can be very painful, but is not venomous. Velvet ants are not particularly common, but can be found all throughout the United States.
Velvet Ant Stings
Velvet ants are normally non-aggressive, but extreme care should be used around females, as their stings are painful and they will sting as a last-resort defense mechanism.
Velvet Ant Infestation
Unlike other species of wasps, velvet ant wasp do not create its own nest. Instead it searches out the ground nests of bees or cicada killers, infiltrates it, and lays its eggs in the existing larvae. The egg then develops, using the larvae as a host, eventually the partially developed velvet ant emerges, consumes the host, then cocoons itself within its pupal case. Because of this parasitic relationship, and the velvet ant wasp’s tendency to search out below ground hosts, they are of little concern to most homeowners. Their presence is rarely detected and, although the males can fly, the females are more often seen typically fleeing human contact. The majority of the life cycle of a velvet ant is spent underground developing parasitically. Beyond that point, these non-colony wasps can be seen in open sandy or muddy areas, often searching for nectar. Velvet ant wasps are most commonly witnessed in the late summer months when it is hottest.
Velvet Ant Identification
The females of this moderately sized wasp are wingless, and have the hourglass shape of an ant. Females are emblazoned with a bright red or orange color with black stripes, and have “hair” covering their body. Males have wings (transparent and black), but lack the stinger that females possess, and share only color similarities, not the hair.
Velvet Ants in the Garden & The House
In the early stages of life velvet ant wasps primarily feeds off of its host bee or cicada killer. This parasitic function only lasts until the velvet ant is fully developed, at which point it searches for nectar and water. This penchant for sweet foods may lead them to the areas around your house, but rarely are their cases of velvet ants inside residences.
Frequently Asked Questions About Velvet Ants
What is the difference between velvet ant wasps and bees?
Velvet ant wasps are more slender with longer and thinner legs than bees. Bees look more robust with thicker legs.
What is the difference between velvet ant wasps and hornets?
Velvet ant wasps are somewhat smaller and more “fuzzy-looking” than hornets. Hornets, a type of wasp, are usually larger and broader than other wasps.
Are velvet ants aggressive?
The velvet ant wasp nicknames “cow killer” and “mule killer” are based on the myth that these wasps can kill livestock. Velvet ant wasps have a sting that is no more painful or venomous than other wasps. They are actually very mild-natured and will only sting if extremely provoked.
Benefits of Professional Velvet Ant Wasp Pest Control
A pest management professional has the education, equipment and skills necessary to effectively address a velvet ant wasp problem. Finding and treating the velvet ant wasp nest can be challenging, especially if the main nest is hidden somewhere outside. A pest management professional provides their expertise to identify the pest problem and determine the best possible solution to resolve the velvet ant wasp infestation.