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Velvet Ants or Cow Killer

Velvet ant or Cow Killer belong to a large family (Mutillidae), and look like wingless.

Velvet Ants

Velvet Ants

These insects are wasps, not ants. Females are wingless and covered with dense hair, superficially resembling ants. The red velvet-ant is the largest velvet-ant species, reaching about 3/4 inch in length. They are black overall with patches of dense orange-red hair on the thorax and abdomen. Males are similar but have wings and can not sting.

Velvet ants seen running around open areas in the yard during July, August, and September is the velvet ant. Velvet ants look like large hairy ants. They differ from ants in having only a slight constriction between the thorax and abdomen and having straight rather than elbowed antennae. They may be seen in lawns or pastures, or occasionally wandering into buildings. These solitary wasps, as the name implies, are densely covered with short hair.

Life Cycle:Velvet Ants burrow of a suitable host species is found, the velvet ant digs it open. Sometimes the burrow will still be active, and defended by an irate bee or wasp. Little physical damage is done to the well protected velvet ant in this case, although she may be removed some distance from the nest entrance in the struggle that ensues, straying off away from the nest. Once the mutillid has opened the nest or has pushed herself past a defender, she crawls in, investigates the nest cells, and locates those immature solitaries that are in the pupal or prepupal stage of development.

Velvet Ants

Velvet Ants

The sting may be used at this point, serving to paralyze and possibly to arrest development of each host in its cocoon. A single egg is deposited in each cocoon located, and the female departs to continue her hunting. larvae emerge from the eggs and feed on the hosts, becoming full grown in just a few days.

A cocoon for the mutillid pupa is constructed within the shell of the now consumed host and a new generation of velvet ants emerges as adults during the same summer season or spends the winter underground in pupal or prepupal stages.

Females of some species that live in the north pass the winter as adults and start their foraging once again in early spring. After they have mated, the new females begin their own persistent hunting activity, being among the first insects active on the sand each morning and the last to leave in the evening. Although a single female is capable of covering a large area during the course of a day or through a season.

Management: Mutillidae pose no real threat to humans, livestock, or domesticated animals other than the unfortunate accidental sting associated with unaware victims. Like other stinging insects, only female Mutillidae are capable of stinging. Some species are referred to as “cow killers” or “mule killers,” because their sting is said to be painful enough to kill an animal.

Velvet Ants damage

Velvet Ants damage

If you want to control, you may wish to consult a pest management professional.

If you ever have any bug related issues in New York City, feel free to call us either at Beyond Pest Control. Once again, and I can’t stress this enough we are on call twenty four hours a day seven days a week to kill those bugs, we aren’t kidding whether you call us at 9 am or midnight we will be available to take your call and either get rid of the bug infestation, or answer any questions you may have concerning the bug issue. I can honestly guarantee that there will be someone to answer that call. We make it our business to make you bug free!

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