Velvet Ants Sting, Male, Blue, White, Eastern and their Habitat

by Annie Shuler

The velvet ants come in different colors. These include white, orange and blue. The female velvet ant sting is very painful. The male and female ants have many distinguishing factors. We explore these as well as their habitat, what they eat and how to kill them.

What are velvet ants, facts, pictures, what they eat

The velvet ant is not a true ant. The females are wingless, large, multi-colored and hairy. Most of them are orange and black while others maybe blue. The velvet ant is not social. They live a solitary life and have no nests or colonies. They live in isolation.

They can be found wandering around in the garage, crawling on the lawn, or even digging up the soil. These ants are also not aggressive. When they suspect interference, they will try to move away. When handled recklessly the female ant can sting. Their stings are known to be very painful. This is why the ants have also earned the name cow killer ants.

They produce some squeaks especially when disturbed and are about to bite. They are harmless and need no chemical control. It is therefore only right to leave the ants alone most of the time. Where one desires to control them, they should ensure they do so when wearing the correct gear to avoid being bitten.

Velvet ant facts

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The velvet ants are unique ants. They can occasionally be seen running around in open areas. They look like some large hairy ants although they are wasps. They have various distinguishing characters which make them different from other ants.

They have a constriction between the abdomen and the thorax. In this constriction, there is a hump. Their antennae are straight as opposed to being elbowed. Their bodies are densely covered with some short hair.  They are brightly colored. Unlike other ants, these ones are not aggressive and will try to run away when disturbed.

Other than the above, below are some other interesting velvet ant facts:

  • Whenever the ants are disturbed as well as when they are mating, the ants produce audible squeaks.
  • The ants are also referred to as cow killer ants due to their extremely painful sting.
  • They can sting multiple times although this is rare.
  • They have few natural predators due to their hard exoskeleton as well as the ability to sting.

Male velvet ant and female velvet ant

Both the male and female ants are covered with dense pubescence that is quite dense. The hair is mostly very bright in color. This could be orange, blue, or white. The ants exhibit sexual dimorphism making them distinct enough. The females are slightly larger than the males. The males are winged while the females have no wings. The female is the only one that can inflict a sting. It has a stinger in its reproductive system known as the ovipositor. The stinger is quite long and very maneuverable.

Both males and females are capable of producing a squeaking sound when they are alarmed. This sound can be heard when they are just about to sting and s they are mating as well. They also have dense hairs on their feet lines.

What do velvet ants eat

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Like most bees and wasps, these ants eat nectar. However, the immature ones hatch out in nest chambers of host ants. They then consume the host larvae and pupae. They are also known to eat bee pollen and other adult insects such as beetles, wasps, flies and bees. Some other supplements include water and sugar. People who keep the ants tend to feed them using honey and grapes. There exist no velvet feeding patterns ever recorded.

Velvet ant habitat

The velvet ants prefer living in fields and pastures that have sandy soil. This is because their prey is likely to be found here. Where they are too many in an area, it is advised that one increases the grass cover. This helps in discouraging the ground-nesting wasps and bees. This way the ants lack anything to feed on.

Blue velvet ant

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Most of the ants have brilliant colors. These help in warning predators that the ants will defend themselves. This form of coloration is referred to as aposematic coloration meaning warning coloration. Any predator that ignores the color warning gets a painful cow killer sting. This could be inflicted on an individual or other ants. The blue ants are great for keeping. They bear an attractive color but should always be handled with care to avoid getting stung.

Eastern velvet ant

The Eastern species of this ant is found in the North mostly from Connecticut to Missouri and from Florida to Texas in the south. This happens to be the largest of all the velvet ants species. The adults have aposematic coloration which includes an overall black color which has orange patterns on the dorsal surface of their abdomen and thorax.

Thistledown velvet ant

The thistle ant is mostly found in the United States as well as in Northern Mexico. It has a nice coat of white velvety hair. This makes them look like creosote bush seeds providing perfect camouflage. As a result, they can easily hide from their predators. These ants are as harmful as the rest when disturbed. The females have a stinger which they will utilize when stepped on or when handled. Their venom though is not dangerous and one only suffers from the pain of their sting.

White velvet ant

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Any of the species that are white in color are also known as panda ants. It is possible for some of the ants within a given species to be white and the rest a different color. Just like the blue ant, the white one is also not very common. This white ant is also referred to as the thistledown velvet ant. The red velvet ant is the most common of them all.

Yellow velvet ant, giant velvet ant and gray velvet ant

The bright colors of the ants in most cases serve as a warning to other insects of impending danger. Other than their red and blue colors, there also are some that are white, yellow and gray. All of them have almost similar characteristics. Ants from the same species can have different colors depending on their location.

Velvet ant sting

The velvet ant is common around the world. Just like other wasps, they also sting. The severity of the sting will vary. It is important to avoid the ants to avoid getting stung. Where it happens, one should seek immediate treatment to relieve the pain.

One should always try as much as possible to avoid these ants. Although they may not be as aggressive as the fire ants, their sting is equally painful. They tend to sting when stepped on or held. The venom they inject into the victim is less toxic than that of other ants such as harvester ants as well as honey bees.

Their stinger is extraordinarily long. The intensity of the reaction that the ants give is also dependent on the victim’s sensitivity. Once stung, the area should be washed up and disinfected. Using some ice on the area will numb it and help in reducing the pain.

The ants are not social and therefore live solitary lives. It is therefore hard for an individual to suffer multiple stings attack. Some pain relievers can also be used to get rid of the pain. In case the sting becomes infected or there are signs of an allergic reaction, medical attention should be sought immediately.

How to Kill Velvet Ant

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In most situations, the velvet ants are harmless. They will only tend to attack when handled. They may go unidentified due to their solitary nature. In case one needs to kill the ants, there are various ways through which this can be done.

The individual ants can be sprayed using any wasp or bee insecticide. They can also be killed using fly swatters. Immature velvet ants may be hard to control. In case there are too many ants around, one could try following the ants to track where they are coming from. This will in most cases lead to a nest where the females are laying their eggs.

When found, one can make use of wasp dust or insecticide dust on the nests. These will penetrate deep enough to kill the ants. Another crude but effective way of killing the ants is by crashing them using thick-soled shoes.

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