Velvet Ants (Family Mutillidae)

Velvet Ants are Wasps that are so-called because the females have soft, velvet-like hairs on their bodies, and are wingless and look like ants. (The males have normal wasp wings.) A female is shown above. The females have very powerful stings.

Below left, a Velvet Ant searches the ground near a "Bee City" of Cactus Bees in June 2002, looking to parasitize their brood nests, as does another one, burrowing into the gound below right. (Click on this image to enlarge it.) (The one at left lacks the resolution for enlargement.)

Velvet Ants search for the brood cells of other kinds of wasps and bees who deposite their eggs in soil, wood, or paper nests. They break open these brood cells and lay an egg in it, then reseal the cell. The hatched velvet ant larva then eats the host larva and then pupates inside the cell.

We saw this female below (also in the banner photo at the top of the page), restlessly searching the ground in October 2005. The length of this insect is close to an inch.