Wasp in Ant’s Clothing

This cute fuzzy looking Ant is not really an Ant. And if you experience the painful sting, you will not think it is so cute and fuzzy looking anymore. To set the record straight; a Velvet Ant is actually a wingless Wasp. It gets its name from the short hair or velvet like coat that covers their body and the fact that they look like an Ant. The bright colored hair alternates on the body in contrasting colors such as yellow and brown, or red and black. They have even been spotted with brilliant colors of gold, orange or silver.

Although they are beautiful to look at, the Velvet Ant is also called the Cow killer Ant due to the potent sting that it delivers. It developed the alternate name through years of people saying that “the sting is so strong it could kill a cow”. This has led to a myth that the Velvet Ant actually feeds on or attacks cows. They do not. However, on a very well known scientific pain scale of one to four, the Velvet Ant registers near the top end of painful stings at a level 3.

The Velvet Ant is not a social insect living in colonies. They are solitary and often use the underground nests of other wasps and bees to lay their own eggs.  Velvet Ants are active during the day feeding on nectar, although the females are usually most active in the hours before sunset.

To properly identify this wasp in ants clothing, first look for the bright alternating color patterns. Upon closer examination the antennae of an Ant will have a bend or elbow, while the Velvet Ant antennae are straight. The female does not have wings, while the male does have wings, but they are transparent making them difficult to see. They range in size from Half inch to one inch in length, so they can be very large. So, if you spot a large colorful Ant, do not try and pick it up as it can be dangerous.

The Velvet Ant is not an aggressive species, so they will likely try their best to avoid you. However, if you happen to be walking barefoot through the yard, a painful sting could be waiting for you. When they are disturbed or stepped on they will sting. And even though you will likely be yelping from the pain, this wasp will actually let out a squeak itself. This squeak is actually part of their defense system. Other predators looking for a tasty meal may try and eat this ant. As they do, the Velvet Ant will begin to squeak. If this squeaking does not deter the predator, their strong exoskeleton; along with its stiff bristly hair make it difficult to chew. Then as its most effective defense, the Velvet Ant will deliver the painful sting that will cause the predator to spit it out and run for cover.

The best way a homeowner can defend against these painful stinging wasps is to keep your grass as full and thick as possible. Try to limit their natural habitat of large open areas with dirt or sandy soil. As with any Ant problem, it needs to be addressed immediately by a professional. All Ants are pesky pest control issues that can be treated properly with the correct methods. So, make sure to call your Nashville Pest Control specialists - Certified Pest Control – to address all of your Ant or Wasp issues. Our team is always happy to assist you and deliver the kind of service only a local family business can offer.