Eastern Velvet Ant

What they look like:

An adult female Red Velvet Ant, also called Eastern Velvet Ant, will be wingless, approximately ¾ of an inch, have black legs and underside with fine dense bright red or orange hair on the head, thorax and abdomen.  Females are wingless and capable of delivering a painful sting.  Adult males resemble females but have wings and are not capable of stinging.

Where to look for them:

Velvet Ants may be found in forested areas, especially around the base of trees, or in pastures.  They may also be observed in lawns with high numbers of cicada killer brood cells.

What they eat:

The female Red Velvet Ant will lay an egg on a larva of a cicada killer or other ground dwelling wasp or bee grub.  Upon hatching the Red Velvet Ant larva will eat the larva upon which its egg was laid.  Adult Red Velvet Ants, male and female, feed on plant nectar.

What to look for:

Because they are not social insects, don’t form colonies or cause damage, the only thing to look for would be sightings of individual adult Red Velvet Ants.

Other information:

Although the Eastern Velvet Ant appears to be an ant, and is even so named, it is in fact a wasp.  The Red Velvet Ant earned the nickname of “cow killer” due to its painful sting, which only the female can deliver.