In this month's pest profile, we're talking about the velvet ant. While this pest is stunning in color and has a unique texture, it can be quite a danger. Although they're called velvet ants, they aren't actually ants at all. They're wasps that can cause a terribly painful sting. They get the velvet part of their name because of their bodies' dense fur, which makes them appear fuzzy.
What they look like:
Female velvet ants are wingless and covered with hair. They're typically about 3/4 inch in length and are black with patches of thick orange, red, or gold hair on the thorax and abdomen. Males are similar looking but have black translucent wings and cannot sting. A velvet ant's stinger is extraordinarily long, and the sting is excruciating.
What to know about their sting:
Velvet ants got the nickname "cow killer" from urban legends, which said the sting is strong enough to kill a cow. While the sting is definitely painful, the venom is similar to the intensity of a honey bee sting. The most common symptoms surrounding a velvet ant sting are localized redness and swelling. One study found that the sting of a velvet ant is 600 times less toxic than a harvester ant. In comparison, just six stings from a harvester ant can kill a two-pound mammal. When it comes to velvet ants, many will produce a squeaking sound as a warning when disturbed. Like all wasps, they can sting multiple times.
Where they're found:
Velvet ants are usually found between the months of April and November throughout the United States including here in eastern North Carolina. There are over 400 species of velvet ants across the country. The females are typically seen running somewhat erratically on the ground. They gravitate towards dry, sandy, open areas like fields, meadows, and lawns. Although some are nocturnal, male velvet ants are found on nectar-producing flowers. Velvet ants are solitary, which means you'll usually only see one at a time. Males generally fly low to the ground to find wandering females. After mating, the female will enter a bee or wasp nest on the ground and lay eggs on or near the other insect's larva.
What they eat:
Adult velvet ants feed on nectar and water. That's why the males are usually found near or on flowers.
When to call the experts:
Don't try to handle a velvet ant yourself if you see one in your yard or around your home. Velvet ants aren't aggressive but will sting if stepped on or picked up. The best way to eliminate a velvet ant is to have a professional do it. Pestech of Greenville is here to help keep your family safe this summer by removing any unwanted pests just like a velvet ant. Give us a call at 252-353-4760 or email PestechOfGreenville@hotmail.com to get started.