Jenni at the Los Alamos Nature Center had an unusual request: if I saw any red velvet ants, please scoop them up (alive) and bring them to the nature center for display. They already had a few, but wanted more.
Red velvet ants aren't terribly uncommon here in White Rock. I see maybe one a month. They're gorgeous: well named, with bright scarlet patches against black and a texture that looks velvety-soft. There are several other species of velvet ants worldwide, but only Dasymutilla aureola is common around the southwestern US; rarely, I'll see a white velvet ant, also called the thistledown velvet ant, D. gloriosa.
You don't want to try petting them to see if they feel velvetty, though:
they're actually wasps, and possess one of the most painful stings
in the insect world. The red velvet ant's other name is "cow killer",
because of how painful the sting is (the venom isn't actually dangerous,
and certainly won't kill a cow).
[ 12:58 Aug 28, 2022 More nature | permalink to this entry | ]