Thistle-Down Velvet Ant

Dasymutilla gloriosa

Thistle-down Velvet Ant, Dasymutilla gloriosa, photo © by Mike P{lagens

After a few dozen shots I finally got one photo that's not completely out of focus. Mesquite Wash, Mazatzal Mts., Arizona. August 2013.

Mutilidae -- Velvet Ant Family

Many people first guess that this insect is a spider. An excuseable error in that velvet ants run way too fast to count the legs. A close look, that does not include picking it with your fingers, reveals a long sharp stinger from the terminus of the abdomen.

The sting is reportedly very painful, but it's function is to disarm other stinging insects such as bees. Velvet ants enter the nests of other wasps/bees, sting the owner into submission, and lay their own egg in the owner's larder. Later the developing velvet ant grub will consume the bee grub. Some other velvet ants are parasites of grasshopper eggs in the soil.

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 11 March 2014.