Red velvet ants, also infamously known as the “cow killer ant”, are in actuality wasps rather than true ants. These insects are feared for their painful sting. The female, which is the one capable of stinging, is wingless and covered in dense hair superficially resembling ants. The red velvet ant is the largest velvet ant species, reaching about ¾ 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. The female, however, can inflict a very painful sting on man and animals, hence the nickname “cow killer”. But just how dangerous are their stings? The experts at Loyal Termite & Pest Control are here to share everything you need to know about red velvet ants.
What Are Red Velvet Ants?
The female velvet ants dig into the nesting chambers of ground-nesting bees and wasps. They then lay their eggs on the larvae inside which soon hatches into a white legless grub. When the immature velvet ant is born it eats its host and then spins a cocoon within the pupa case of the host. The ant goes through several larval stages before forming a pupa of its own. The velvet ant’s mouthparts are for chewing. Lone females can be found crawling on the ground, particularly in open sandy areas. Adults are most common during the warm summer months. They occasionally enter structures for insect prey. Males are often found on flowers although some species are nocturnal. The velvet ant is typically seen running around open areas, sometimes erratically, in late summer. They may be seen in lawns or pastures or wandering into buildings.
Are Velvet Ants Dangerous?
With such a name, many people may be left wondering if these insects are as dangerous as they’re made out to be. Here’s what to know:
- Velvet ants are the biggest threat to other bees and wasps. As mentioned previously, they will attack bumblebees or other beehives in order to lay their eggs.
- Although they are rarely aggressive, red velvet ant stings are very painful. If they are threatened or stepped on, they may sting in defense.
- Despite the name, these “cow killer ants” do not actually kill cows. It is simply a phrase to suggest how severe their stings can be.
Need Help With Velvet Ant or Cow Killer Ants in Virginia?
These red, fuzzy velvet ants have been in Virginia. If you are noticing their activity in or near your home, it’s important to enlist the help of a professional. Although these pests have no desire to come inside your home, it’s important to never approach them outdoors either. To learn more about cow killer ants, contact the professionals at Loyal Termite & Pest Control today!