Fuzzy Doesn’t Mean Friendly: Red Velvet Ants

Fuzzy Doesn't Mean Friendly: Red Velvet Ants

image credit: EugeneNatureObserver
Red Velvet Ants, Dasymutilla aureola pacificaimage credit: mrnickon
Red Velvet Ants, Dasymutilla aureola pacificaimage credit: sjb5
Red Velvet Ants, Dasymutilla aureola pacificaimage credit: arthurevans.wordpress.com

© David Guzman

Habitat: occur worldwide, with some 5000 species, mainly in the tropics.
Status: No conservation concerns

These colorful, fuzzy Red Velvet Ants (Dasymutilla aureola pacifica) aren’t really ants at all – they’re wasps! The females lack wings which makes them resemble ants… definitely had me fooled.Their name “velvet ant” does refer to the wasp’s dense hair which comes in a variety of colors, including white, blue, gold, black, silver, and red as show in this subspecies. The vivid coloration serves as a warning to other animals that these wasps aren’t exactly friendly. In fact, they’re also known as cow killersbecause their sting is said to be “strong enough to kill a cow,” although this isn’t actually the case… it just really hurts!The earliest-known velvet ants are specimens from the Dominican Republic preserved in amber some 25 to 40 million years ago.