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Family Mutillidae - Velvet Ants

Bright Orange - Dasymutilla bioculata - female dasymutilla pyrrhus - Dasymutilla bioculata - male ID help please...wingless wasp or some kind of ant? - Timulla vagans - female Velvet Ant - Ephuta - female Wow - That's a Stinger! - Dasymutilla occidentalis - female Velvet Ant / Sphaeropthalma pensylvanica - Sphaeropthalma pensylvanica - male Mutillidae - Dasymutilla monticola - male Mutillidae - Sphaeropthalma pensylvanica
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
Velvet Wasps
Solitary Ants
Explanation of Names
Mutillidae Latreille 1802
"Velvet Ant" refers to the hairy, ant-like body
~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
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)
Certain species (such as Dasymutilla occidentalis and D. klugii) can give a quite sting if handled. Note, however, that sting pain intensity varies considerably between species, and none of our species are considered to be medically significant.(6)

Terms such as "cow killer" and "cow ant" refer to a specific species (Dasymutilla occidentalis) and should not be used to refer to this family as a whole. They are also misnomers and significantly exaggerate the sting pain.

Similarly, the term "panda ant" refers to a single species (Euspinolia militaris) which does not occur anywhere in North America. It should never be used to refer to any of our species.
Internet References
Fact sheet (Hertz 2013)(7)
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.The Sting of the Wild: The Story of the Man Who Got Stung for Science
Justin O. Schmidt. 2016. John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, MD.
7.University of Florida: Featured Creatures