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Red Velvet Ant

Red Velvet Ant or cow killer (Dasymutilla occidentalis). These insects are wasps, not ants. Females are wingless and covered with dense hair, superficially resembling ants. The red velvet-ant is the largest velvet-ant species, reaching about 3/4 inch in length. They are black overall with patches of dense orange-red hair on the thorax and abdomen. Males are similar but have wings and can not sting.

Red Velvet Ant

Red Velvet Ant

Several other species of velvet ants are common in Texas, including the gray velvet ant or thistle down mutillid. Most are solitary parasites of immature wasps, solitary bees and some other insects such as beetles and flies. Winged males can be confused with other Hymenoptera. Adults of the tiphiid wasp are black and yellow, 3/4 inch long . They can occur in large numbers, sometimes on flowers of landscape plants. Larvae are parasites of white grubs.

The name velvet ant is a misnomer. These insects are not ants but are, in fact, wasps. Males are winged, and are not frequently observed by most people. Females are wingless, ant-like in general appearance, and may be seen scurrying about on the ground. Both males and females are covered by dense, velvety pubescence, hence the name velvet ant. They are also sometimes called cow ants or cow killers.

The adult velvet ants feed on nectar and water. The immature stages are external parasites of wasp that nest in the ground like cicada killer wasp. Cicada killer wasp dig burrows into the ground. The adult cicada killer wasp capture and paralyze cicadas and drag them into the underground burrow. The wasp lays an egg on the cicada and after it hatches, the cicada killer wasp larva uses the cicada as a food source.

Life Cycle :All Mutillidae are solitary parasitoid wasps that mostly attack mature larvae or pupae of other solitary Hymenoptera. However, velvet ants have been observed targeting non-feeding stages of Diptera, Coleoptera, Lepidoptera, Blattodea, and even some eusocial Hymenoptera.

Red Velvet Ant

Red Velvet Ant

Finding a matching reproductive pair can be difficult, if not impossible for some species, because of the extreme sexual dimorphism displayed within this family. Color patterns and the relative body size of the two sexes of the same species can be very different, making it very difficult to relate one sex with the other.

Male Mutillidae are frequently larger than the females. One study in south-central Florida found that in seven out of 13 species, the males were heavier than the females. The remaining six species either showed comparable sizes between the male and female or the female was larger than the male.

Biological data is very scarce and differences obviously exist between genera and species, especially with regards to their life cycles and development, but the following has been reported for most Mutillidae. Females have the difficult job of locating potential hosts. Suitable hosts may be difficult to find for several reasons including concealment, low population densities when solitary and lastly, if the hosts are eusocial, they will be heavily defended. Once a host is located, female velvet ants parasitize the hard life stages of the hosts and the emerging velvet ant larvae are essentially ectoparasites of those life stages. Once development is completed, adults leave the nest and seek a mate.

Habits: Female velvet ants dig into the nesting chambers of ground-nesting bees and wasps and lay their eggs on the larvae inside. When the immature velvet ant is born, it eats its host and then spins its cocoon within the pupal case of its host.

Red Velvet Ant

Red Velvet Ant

Damage : Mouthparts are for chewing. Lone females can be found crawling on the ground, particularly in open sandy areas. Adults are most common during the warm summer months. Larvae are solitary, external parasites of developing bumble bees.

Management: Mechanically destroy any scorpions found indoors by swatting or crushing. Clean out all possible hiding places. Hiding or breeding areas can be treated with sprays.

If you ever have any bug related issues in New York City, feel free to call us either at Beyond Environmental P.C. Once again, and I can't stress this enough we are on call twenty four hours a day seven days a week to kill those bugs, we aren’t kidding whether you call us at 9 am or midnight we will be available to take your call and either get rid of the bug infestation, or answer any questions you may have concerning the bug issue. I can honestly guarantee that there will be someone to answer that call. We make it our business to make you bug free!

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