Common Eastern Velvet Ant (3Sept2022)

In “Dasymutilla occidentalis,” they say on Wikipedia:

“Commonly mistaken for an ant, because of its appearance and its common name, it is a parasitoid wasp species in which the females are wingless, as is true for all females of Mutillidae. It can be recognized by its distinctive red coloring, with a black stripe that goes across the abdomen. Females are capable of an extremely painful sting, hence the name ‘cow killer’. They are quick-moving and often take a defensive posture when threatened. Instead of creating nests, the females seek out the brood cells of Eastern cicada killers and horse guard wasps as well as other large ground-nesting members of Crabronidae, where they deposit an egg onto a host larva. The egg quickly hatches into a white, legless grub, which consumes the host and goes through several larval stages prior to pupation. Unlike the females, males have dark, translucent wings and do not possess a sting. Males fly low over grass in search of mates. Both sexes make a squeaking noise (stridulation) to warn potential predators (another form of aposematism in females, and automimicry in males).”

See also “Red Velvet Ant or ‘Cow Killer’ ” on Texas A&M’s Agrilife Extension site.

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