Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Red Velvet Ant

One of the most striking insects I've ever laid eyes on is the velvet ant. It's actually not an ant but in fact a solitary wasp. The males have black transparent wings and do not sting, whereas the female pictured here is wingless and does sting. The combination of its bold colors allows it to stand out brilliantly on the pine straw laden forest floor. It is so beautiful that your tempted to reach down and pick it up…….but beware. The sting of the “cow killer” is said to be excruciating. So much so folklore has it that it’s so powerful it could kill a cow- hence the name. They’re parasitic in nature in which the female scours the terrain in search of nests of ground nesting bees and wasps. When one is discovered she will dig into the nest chamber and deposit an egg onto the host larva which will ultimately be the food of its progeny. I tried repeatedly to photograph it, but there was no pause in its hasty stride eventually causing me to capture it in a vial.

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Blogger A Local Naturalist said...


That is one very cool-looking insect. Very nice post.

(formerly of Lulu Island Blog, which is now defunct but has been resurrected under a new name.)

7:54 PM  
Blogger Jace Stansbury said...

Thanks Hugh. Though it took me all summer to come across one it was well worth the wait. Thanks for letting me know about your blog so that I can update it in my blog link section. Cool story about Gordon Lightfoot!


11:34 AM  
Blogger Hooly said...

I read about them as a child and came across my first one this summer. I chased it for while but never could get a good pic. Since them I've come across 2 more in the same hiking vicinity. I'm going to start carrying a vile with me - that's a great idea!

6:27 PM  
Blogger Jace Stansbury said...


This is one of my favorite insects and I always get excited when I come across one. The colors are absolutely beautiful and stand out vividly on the forest floor. Thanks for checking out my blog!


2:03 PM  

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