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Velvet Ants

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Cow Killer Ant Red Velvet Ant Ant Index
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Despite their name, velvet ants are actually wasps that have very dense hair covering their body.  Their body size can vary from inch to 1 inch in length.  Most of these wasps are brightly colored (red, yellow, orange) with varying patterns.  Although the male wasp has wings, the wingless female is most often noticed by people.  Seeing this large, wingless wasp scurry about makes most people think that they are seeing a gigantic ant.  Adult Velvet Ants feed on nectar, water or the larvae of other insects.  Female wasps of this family will lay their eggs in the larva or cocoon of a host insect.  Their food can include flies, beetles, bees and other wasps.  More feeding and breeding details can be found by following the links (listed below) for Cow Killer and Red Velvet ants.

The most frequently encountered velvet ant wasps are commonly called cow killer ants and red velvet ants.

In most cases, these insects are not generally considered as pests, they can occasionally invade residences, daycare or schools in large numbers.  When left alone, no harm is done.  But if a child (or adult) tries to play with this insect or accidentally steps on one, the resulting sting will remind the offending human how this insect got its name.

The sting of the velvet ant or cow killer can be severe enough to make someone think that it could kill a cow!  Hence, the name "Cow Killer Ant" came to be.  (They do not, however, kill cows.)  To see an image of these wingless wasps, go to Cow Killer Ant page.

If the wasp population rises to very high numbers (increasing the possibility of a person being stung), pest control measures can be taken.

There are two methods of elimination:

  1. Dust each individual hole where the wasps are seen entering or exiting.  These holes can sometimes be easily seen; each hole being about the diameter of an average sized pencil.  The best dust to use for such a job is Delta Dust.
    Delta Dust Cannot be shipped to NY, NJ, CT, VT, AK
  2. Broadcast the area (grass, soil, shrubs, etc.) with Permethrin Pro or Talstar Concentrate, using a hose-end sprayer.  This insecticide application will not only kill the pest but its food source -- other insects.
    Permethrin Pro
    cannot be shipped to SC, NY, NJ, CT, VT, AK
    Talstar products cannot be shipped to MA, SC, NY, NJ, CT, VT, HI, CA, AK

 

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velvet ant    red velvet ant    cow killer ant