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Red Velvet Ants Facts, Giant, Male, Sting and Diet

The red velvet ant is a uniquely attractive ant. This is as seen in various red velvet ants facts.  Although they are not aggressive, the red velvet ant is something you would want to avoid as it gives excruciatingly painful stings. Where do these ants live and what do they eat? We explore these.

What are red velvet ants

The red velvet ants belong to a family containing a number of wasp species. These have females that have no wings making them look like some hairy big ants. Their dense hair is mostly brightly colored to serve as an aposematic signal.

Upon siting them, predators know better than to attack them. For human beings, it is a signal to stay away from it not play with it. This is because they inflict painful stings. Unlike other ants, these are soli

Red Velvet Ants Facts, Giant, Male, Sting and Diet - Photo courtesy Jason Wilcox, McDavid, Florida
Red Velvet Ants

tary ants. They do not have queens, workers or drones. Their antennae are straight and look like a beak. This makes them maneuverable enough.

The exoskeleton of the red velvet ants is very tough. This allows them to invade other nests successfully without getting hurt. It also helps them in retaining moisture. The wings in the males are uniform while the females have no wings. The males and females have distinct characteristic and exhibit sexual dimorphism.

The female ant is the only one that is capable of stinging. It has a stinger that is modified to fit into one of the female organs known as the ovipositor. Both sexes have another organ referred to as the stridulitrum which they use to produce a chirping sound when alarmed. On the side of their metasoma are velvety red hairs. These are referred to as felt lines.

The red velvet ant is a natural predator of the yellow jacket and other ground nesting ants. Such as wasps and bees. They tend to burrow into their nests where they lay the eggs. When the eggs hatch, their larvae fed on the larvae of the host ants. The adults mostly feed on nectar.

In general, red velvet ants are solitary and non-aggressive. They will quickly run away in case they feel threatened. However, the female ant could inflict a painful sting. This mostly occurs when the ants are disturbed.

The ant is mostly found in Eastern and Western US. They live in the forest edges, in deserts and in the meadows. Their bodies consist of two main parts; the abdomen and the thorax. These are covered with red hairs. The head and the rest of the body are black. This is including the wings found in the males. In between these parts is a small constriction. Their exoskeleton is very hard to protect them from predators as well as help in water retention.

The red velvet ants are the largest. Generally, the females tend to be slightly larger than the males. During mating, the males can be seen flying low close to the ground in search for females. They make use of their site and the females’ sections of pheromones. Once mating is done, the females will look for ground nests belong to bees or wasps. They then enter into the nest of the host, puncture their cocoon and lay their eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae will feed on the larva of the host or their pupae.

In general, the behavior of the males and that of the females is totally different. While the females will be seen hovering on the sand and burrowing into the soil in search of host nets, the males will be seen flying over the ground and feeding on the plants’ nectar. They are active from sunrise to the sunset.

Red velvet ant facts

The red velvet is also referred to as the mule killer or the cow killer ant. It is among the many varieties of velvet ants with others being white, gray or blue in color. It is so called due to the coloration and appearance of the hair. Its potential to harm has with time been blown out of proportion. However, its bites are very painful. It rarely attacks since it is solitary and docile. It only stings when disturbed during which it gives out a squeaking sound. Other interesting facts about this ant include:

  • The females have no wings but are the only ones with a stinger
  • Female ants are a little big larger than their male counterparts.
  • The wings of the male ant are black but transparent.
  • They are the largest species of the fire ants
  • Although they may invade homes, the ants never reach the pest status.
  • Their exoskeleton is very hard and serves to retain moisture as well as ensure t
  • The exoskeleton of the ants is very hard ensuring that the ants are well protected from attacks by other ants especially those from whose nests they lay eggs.
  • The ant is mostly nocturnal but female ants can be seen searching during the day.
  • The males can fly and are mostly seen around
  • They shed their exoskeleton periodically.

Red velvet ant pictures

While written descriptions may give an idea of what the ants look like, their pictures will go a long way in ensuring the correct identification. These will show the approximate sizes as well as the ants in their natural habitats. They also can help in bringing out the differences between the male and female ants. There are many variations of the red as well as other velvet ants online.

What do red velvet ants eat

The primary food for the adult velvet ant is nectar. However, it can feed on the larvae of other insects as well as on adult ants. These include wasps, beetles and bees. There are different species with some being nocturnal. These come out from sunrise to sunset. This type of velvet ants is active during the day. It is in this time that it goes looking for food.

Male red velvet ant

The male ant is half red and half black. It has some transparent wings that are dark colored. They can mostly be located on flowers eating nectar. They also go around looking for the females to mate. They are normally smaller than the female ants and develop from unfertilized eggs. The males also lack a stinger. The males and females are quite different and it is difficult to identify them as belonging to the same species. This is unless they are seen mating.

Giant red velvet ant

Generally, the red velvet ant is the largest of all velvet ants. The giant ants are rarely many enough to become a nuisance. They mostly will be found outdoors and in rare occasions can be seen hovering around in places of dwelling. These ants should never be picked using bare hands. They also should never be stepped on in bare legs.

Controlling them is at times hard due to their tough outer covering known as the integument. They may not respond to the use of mechanical or chemical control. As such, the best way of getting rid of them is by carefully moving them to areas where they will not be a bother to anyone. Where they are not putting anyone at risk, they should just be left to be.

Red velvet ant sting

It is as a result of the intensity of pain felt from the red velvet ant sting that the ants are also known to as the mule killer or cow killer. A sting from them will make one feel intense pain which could last up to 30 minutes. The ants’ venom injected into the victim when they sting is not toxic or lethal to humans or other animals. As such, the treatment for its sting is just like would be given for any other sting from a bee or wasp.

However, some people may be allergic to such stings. There is a risk of allergic reactions in any sting from an insect so it is important to watch out. In case one is stung and exhibits sign of severe allergy, visit the doctor fast. For people with no allergic reactions, the sting can be treated from home. Wash the area well using water. One should then bring in a baking soda paste and apply it on the area. An antibiotic cream can also do the wounded area some good. These will help prevent the area from getting infected.

The best way to avoid being stung is by not handling the ant. Stepping into the fields should always be done in shoes. Since the ant is hardy and tough, one should also ensure they have enough grass cover in their yard. This will discourage ground nesting ants from building their nests. This way, the red velvet ant will have no hosts around to parasitize. Since the ants are harmless and cause no damage, they are best left alone.

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About Vladmir Kucherov


  1. FYI ….I read this article. It has great facts and information but I found an error. Red velvet ants are not thought to be ants at all but wasps. The name come from its ant like appearance only. Careful study shows that it is a wasp.

    • They are so beautiful. I have seen them on different locations of a park. They are fast and are constantly moving. Each time I see then I try to take a picture or movie.

  2. You have some contradictory facts here. The Velvet Ant is a wasp and the article does indeed mention this but then say “They are the largest species of the fire ants”. Then there’s “The ant is mostly nocturnal but female ants can be seen searching during the day”. I kind of feel the second one there may have been accidental, but you should be more careful about proof reading these

  3. I hope that anyone reading this continues on and reads the comments. It is poorly written and proof read. This insect is a WASP and should be referred to as a wasp instead of a Red Velvet Ant! The common name of Velvet Ant is just a name that it has been given and used by many people because it looks somewhat like a fuzzy ant!. Most folks know it is a wingless female wasp with a very painful sting. There are many incorrect facts and I would advise looking further for information to get the facts right.

    • ive got one. caught it yesterday. trying to find out what it eats. what a creature. God is amazing. jaws like an ant plus the longest stinger in the kingdom. this sucker is huge! wheres all the bug freaks? wallace.wes@yahoo.com

      • I caught one too on 8/5/17. Still have her in a jar, currently at work with me lol. show & tell, too pretty to not share. I did a lot of reading, just beautiful. Now deciding where I can safely release her. I gave her a piece of a grape yesterday, she was all over that. Then a couple pieces of bark from a potted plant in my office today, which she is currently taking apart, fascinating!! I took a lot of pics. Found her on my sidewalk at home & caught it safely to identify. I feel privileged.

  4. I live in New Jersey and some appeared behind my place of employment, the flying males are mating with the red wingless females. Pretty cool.

  5. Missy Conzonere

    This insect may have a “beautiful” appearance but nevertheless I have been accidentally stung by one and geezzzzz….what pain I was in for a full 30/45 mins….!!!! Not Cool at all consisting my children play all day in our yard. Truly I’m glad it was me and not them!! I still stop one here and days later another here or there. Anyone have any idea how I can get rid of them certainly for the safety of children???

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