Magnificent Velvet Ant

Dasymutilla magnifica

Magnificent Velvet Ant, Dasymutilla magnifica, photo © by Mike P{lagens

Off Eagle Eye Rd 15 km s. of Aguila, Maricopa Co., Arizona. 19 March 2017.

Mutilidae -- Velvet Ant Family

Many people first guess that this insect is a large, velvety ant. An excuseable error in that velvet ant females lack wings and run ant-wise along the ground looking for their prey. But notice that they are much larger than most ants and generally or solitary. Getting a good photo is a challenge because they don't often linger when on the soil surface. This species ranges mostly in the Mojave desert areas and northwestern portions of the Sonoran Desert. Other red and black species are found throughout much of North America.

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 20 March 2017.