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Family Mutillidae - Velvet Ants

Cow Killer - Dasymutilla occidentalis What kind of velvet ant. - Dasymutilla californica Mutilid - Pseudomethoca frigida? - Pseudomethoca simillima - female Red ant - Dasymutilla bioculata - female Sidestriped - Dasymutilla heliophila - female Male Dasymutilla sackenii? - Dasymutilla - male Unidentifiable bug Dasymutilla magna? - Dasymutilla - female
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, Wasps and Sawflies)
No Taxon (Aculeata - Ants, Bees and Stinging Wasps)
Superfamily Pompiloidea (Spider Wasps, Velvet Ants and allies)
Family Mutillidae (Velvet Ants)
Other Common Names
Solitary Ants
Explanation of Names
Mutillidae Latreille 1802
"Velvet Ant" refers to the hairy nature and the body form like that of ants.
~480 spp. in our area(1); >4,300 spp. in 210 genera total(2)
6-30 mm
Females wingless, very hairy, and may look like large ants but have no node (bump) on "waist" between abdomen and thorax (ants have one or two)
Males winged, less hairy, look more like typical wasps, larger than females
The sexual dimorphism caused grave taxonomic confusion: genders are difficult to associate and males & females of a single sp. often get placed in separate genera(3) (more here)
Key to genera in(4); guide to SC fauna in(5)
Worldwide, mostly in drier areas; in NA, mostly southwestern
Xeric habitats(3)
Adults (males at least) are observed taking nectar.
Life Cycle
Ectoparasitoids of immature insects, esp. bees and solitary wasps (also flies, limacodid moths, beetles, and cockroaches)(3)
Can give an excruciating sting if handled.
Internet References
Fact sheet (Hertz 2013)(6)
Works Cited
1.American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico
Ross H. Arnett. 2000. CRC Press.
2.Order Hymenoptera. In: Zhang Z-Q (ed) Animal biodiversity: An outline of higher-level classif. and survey of taxonomic richness
Aguiar AP, Deans AR, Engel MS, Forshage M, Huber JT, Jennings JT, Johnson NF, Lelej AS, Longino JT, Lohrmann V, Mikó I, Ohl M. 2013. Zootaxa 3703: 51–62.
3.Evolution of the Insects
David Grimaldi and Michael S. Engel. 2005.
4.A key to genera and subgenera of Mutillidae (Hymenoptera) in America North of Mexico with description of a new genus
Manley D.G., Pitts J.P. 2002. J. Hym. Res. 11: 72-100.
5.The velvet ants (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) of South Carolina
Manley D.G. 1991. South Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station Tech. Bull. 1100, 55 pp.
6.University of Florida: Featured Creatures