Velvet Ant

Category: Stinging

Scientific Name: Dasymutilla occidentalis



Color: Alternating patches of black and either very bright orange, red, yellow or white

Size: 3-23 mm long

Region: Found throughout the United States

Important Considerations:

  • Despite their misleading name, velvet ants are not ants at all but are actually a kind of wasp.
  • Velvet ants are colloquially known as “cow-killer ants” because of the intensely painful sting they deliver.
  • Female velvet ants have a stinger but no wings. On the flip side, males have wings but no stinger.
  • Though not aggressive, the female velvet ant will be prompted to sting if it is disturbed either by handling or being stepped on.


Where to Find Them on Your Property?

During the summer months, it is not uncommon to see velvet ants running about on the ground. They prefer areas that are open and mostly bare like lawns, gardens, or pasture. Male velvet ants are often seen on flowers. They will occasionally venture inside buildings to find prey, but primarily make their home outside.