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Red Velvet Ant

It is not uncommon to spot a red velvet ant scurrying across a warm sunny lawn or sandy area in the spring. These insects are actually solitary wasps. Winged males have a distinct wasp appearance, while females remain wingless over their lifespan. Both males and females are large with bright red or orange markings. Their bodies are fuzzy but don't be fooled, these insects are not cuddly. Female stings are very painful and have been described as feeling like a series of electric shocks. Females are able to make a warning noise by rubbing their abdominal segments together. Eggs are laid in host insects nests, where they hatch as white grubs and consume the hosts' larvae, pupae, or cocoons before pupating. Adult red velvet ants feed on nectar.

Photo courtesy of Arthur V. Evans: red velvent ant mature females remain wingless