image credit craig pemberton via wikipedia
Despite their name, these are not ants – they’re wasps! The name velvet ant comes from the dense pile of short hair that covers the ant-like, wingless females; males have fully developed wings. Velvet ants come in a variety of colors, including blue, white, gold, silver, black, and red as shown in this subspecies. This type of coloration serves as a warning signal to potential predators.
Velvet ants are known due to the female’s extremely painful sting, which is said to be strong enough to kill a cow – hence the name “cow killers”, though this isn’t actually true – it just really hurts a lot!
Velvet ants use larvae of other wasps or bees as food for their larvae. Female’s bites open a suitable host cell and, if the larva in it is fully grown, lay their eggs on it and reseal the cell. The larva subsequently eats the host larva, and populate inside the cell.