Red Velvet Ants
Also called the “cow killer ant”, the red velvet ant is actually a wasp! They are usually found in open, dry, and sunny areas. Such as sunny lawns, fields, and pastures. These parasitic wasp don’t build a nest or live in colonies. Instead, mated females will seek out ground-nesting bees or wasps and dig through to the nest, depositing her eggs onto the host larva. When hatched, the immature red velvet ant will eat the host larva as it developes.
Red velvet ant females are the easiest to recognize. Their bright orange or red and black striped, wingless bodies are very distinct. Females can be up to ¾” long and their sting is what probably earned them the nick name of “cow killer”. The males are a bit larger with dark brown wings and have different color patterns.
Despite their many defenses, red velvet ants pose no threat to people and don’t wander inside of homes. They are not aggressive and if you see one you can just take a moment to admire their beautiful colors!