What Are Velvet Ants?
Velvet ants are not actually ants, but instead a species of solitary wasp. They are often referred to as cow killers because the females have a very powerful venom, their painful sting has been exaggerated as being strong enough to “kill a cow”.
Both female and male velvet ants are brightly colored and can be yellow and brown or red and black in color. Velvet ants are covered in dense velvet-like hair. The females do not have wings and the males have two pairs of dark colored wings.
How Do Velvet Ants Differ From “True” Ants?
While velvet ants may look like large hairy ants they are in fact wasps. You can tell them apart from true ants because wasps have a slight narrowing between their thorax and abdomen. Wasps also have straight antennae instead of elbowed antennae.
Are Velvet Ants Dangerous?
Yes, female velvet ants have a very potent and toxic venom; though velvet ants are very docile and rarely come into contact with people. A sting generally only occurs if they are accidentally stepped on. If a sting does happen there is the possibility of a severe allergic reaction occurring in some people that will require immediate medical attention. Parents should educate their children to not handle them or touch them.