|Description:||At a low magnification of only 23X, this scanning electron micrograph (SEM) showed the head region from an anterior view of a female velvet ant, Dasymutilla sp.. Note the two laterally positioned eyes, the anterior pair of antennae, each attached to the head by a rounded "scape", the numerous “hairs” or setae adorning almost all exterior surfaces, and the jointed legs, from which the insects Phylum Arthropoda is derived, i.e., Arthro = “jointed”, and poda “leg”. Also see PHIL 4638, 6363, and 6364 for photographs of the ant revealing its coloration, and velvety covering of external chitinous hairs|
The female velvet ant’s sting is very painful, which has caused it to often be referred to as the “cow killer” ant. However, it was the post-sting festering wound, which would become infested with the now eradicated screw fly that would cause the cow’s death, and not the sting.
As a member of the Family, Mutillidae, and the Order, Hymenoptera, the velvet ant is not really an ant at all, but a wasp which merely resembles an ant, hence its name. There are approximately 5,000 species inhabiting the four corners of the globe, and are very common in desert, arid regions. The female will invade another subterranean wasp or bee’s nest, paralyzing the larvae inside. It will then lay its eggs in the host larvae or pupae, and upon hatching, the velvet ant larvae will feed on the paralyzed host larvae.