Pilbara Biodiversity Project Mutillidae msp. pilb-18 Click to enlarge image
Velvet ant from the CBCR Pilbara Biodiversity Project Coleoptera voucher specimens Image: Scott Ginn
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Family
    Mutillidae
    Super Family
    Vespoidea
    Suborder
    Apocrita
    Order
    Hymenoptera
    Class
    Insecta
    Subphylum
    Uniramia
    Phylum
    Arthopoda
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    1.2 cm

Introduction

Velvet ants get their name from the wingless female that resembles a hairy or velvety ant.



Habitat

Velvet ants live in urban areas, forests and woodlands, heath, and wetland areas.

Distribution

Velvet ants are found throughout Australia.

Other behaviours and adaptations

Velvet ants scuttle around on the ground looking for the nests of wasps and bees. Finding a suitable nest, the velvet ant chews her way into it. There she usually lays a single egg on the pupa of the host wasp. She then sneaks back out of the nest, sometimes sealing up her entrance holes with mud. Inside the nest the velvet ant egg hatches quickly and the larva that emerges eats the developing larva or pupa and then spins its own cocoon. It stays in this disguise until it emerges as an adult.

Danger to humans

Female velvet ants are capable of delivering a painful sting if disturbed. An ice pack will relieve the pain. People with allergies to bee and wasp stings may suffer a severe reaction to velvet ant venom and should seek medical attention.