Velvet ants (also known as cow killer ants) are not actually ants, but are wasps. Females are wingless and covered with patches of dense, often brightly colored hair. Typical coloration is red and black or dark brown. Males have wings, but no stingers; while females have stingers, but lack wings.
Range from 1/8 to 1-inch long.
Velvet ants are active during the day, and they may be some of the first insects to begin foraging in the morning. They will retreat from high ground temperatures in the middle of the day by burrowing under debris, or climbing into plants. They prefer to feed on plant nectar.
Velvet ants are also known as cow killers or mule killers because of their extremely painful sting. Like all wasps, they can sting multiple times. Because of their armor-like exoskeleton and painful sting, few if any animals consume this conspicuous wasp.
Over 150 species of Velvet ants exist throughout the US, southern Canada, and Mexico. They are found in suburban and agricultural areas of South Florida. Velvet ants are solitary wasps, and only the females will be seen wandering about.
The earliest known Velvet ants come from 25 to 40 million year old amber found in the Dominican Republic. When harassed, and during mating, Velvet ants produce an audible squeak.
Do you live in South Florida and think that this pest may be invading your home or yard? Hulett Environmental Services offers specialty pest control treatments designed to control and eliminate this pest!