Identification of Velvet Ant

Question: Orange and black furry ants! What kind are these, are they dangerous, and how do i get rid of them?

Answer: What you have found is often called a velvet ant (but it is not an ant) or a cow killer (and they don't kill cows). This fuzzy or furry insect may be yellow, orange, red, or white, often with black bands. They are usually found one at a time and not in large groups.

The velvet ant is actually a female parasitic wasp (Family Multillidae). The males look more like wasps (they have wings) but are rarely seen.

The velvet ant walks on the ground looking for ground nesting wasps, such as yellow jackets. The female velvet ant then crawls inside the wasp nest to lay her eggs. The eggs hatch and feed on the other wasp larvae! Velvet ants are not common, but during this time of year many people notice them, and become alarmed. These wasps can deliver a painful sting, so it is best to leave them alone.

A garden insecticide can be used to get control if it seems there are several of them in the yard. Otherwise they can be left alone, since they are helping to control some of the ground-nesting wasps in the area.

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