Jun 30, 2010


The insect pictured above is actually a wingless wasp, not an ant. When I saw it in my planter this morning I was taken aback by its vivid color. The red and the black looked DANGEROUS to me, but I took the photo anyway and I then Googled it and found the following:

There are over 400 species in North America, and many are very difficult to identify to the species level. They are generally brightly colored, very active runners, and can deliver a very painful sting. Do not handle!

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. 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.