ARTHROPOD MUSEUM NOTES

Number 56 • August 6, 2007 • Jeffrey K. Barnes


Red velvet ant; cow killer
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Mutillidae
Genus and species: Dasymutilla occidentalis (Linnaeus)

Red velvet ant; cow killer

Females of these wasps superficially resemble very large ants, up to an inch long. Like ants, they are wingless, but their antennae are not elbowed and they are densely covered with short, red and black, velvety hairs. They get the common name cow killer from the painful reputation of their stings. Their aposematic coloration warns of this dangerous quality. The females are frequently seen running around lawns and pastures on hot summer days. They search for bumble bee nests, in which they lay their eggs. The velvet ant larvae feed externally on bee larvae and pupae. Males, which are rarely seen, have dark, transparent wings. Field caught females have been known to live under laboratory conditions for more than 500 days.