Velvet Ants

Pest Status:




black with bright patches of fuzzy orange, white, or yellow


They’re much bigger than ants at around 1/8 to 7/8 of an inch.

Red Velvet Ant is a bit misleading. They may look like ants, but in fact, they’re wasps. The brightly colored females are wingless and resemble the other insect. They’re sometimes called “cow killer ant” based on the idea that the male velvet ant sting is painful enough to kill a cow.

Facts, Identification, and Control

Keep these things in mind.

Facts about Velvet Ants

Don’t forget these things.

Where Do They Live?

They co-opt other insect nests and females lay their eggs on other nests. They’re found throughout the United States.

What Do They Eat?

The young eat their hosts like parasites, but adults eat nectar.

How Did I Get Velvet Ants?

Most Velvet Ants  or cow killer ant come into your house totally by accident. They’re often found running somewhat erratically on the ground. They’re found throughout the country, so they’re all around.

How Serious Are Velvet Ants Problems?

They’re solitary, but you may want to handle it if you find them in your house.

Problem #1

A velvet ant bite hurts but they aren’t aggressive, but they will sting if you happen to disturb them.

Problem #2

They seek out other insects, which could cause you to lose some of your essential pollinators in your garden.

What Can I Do about Velvet Ants?

Red Velvet Ant

They’re solitary, so avoiding them could be a pretty easy thing to do. If you find a few in your house, you may want to consider a professional. Single bugs can be handled with a vacuum or a good trap.

Signs of a Red Velvet Ant Infestation?

Because they’re solitary, you probably don’t have an infestation, but there’s always the potential for a nest.

Velvet Ants Prevention and Control Tips

Here’s what you can do.

Control tip #1

Keep brush away from your house to discourage the nests from insects the Velvet Ant preys on.

Control tip #2

If you come on one, don’t try to pick it up with your hand. Cow killer ant isn’t aggressive, so you might be able to capture it or get it out quickly.

Control tip #3

Keep an eye out for solitary females on the ground and pay attention to flowers you bring inside for the males of the species.

Velvet Ants Professional Pest Control

If you find a lot of Velvet Ants, you may want to consider a professional pest control person who specializes in velvet ants control. They can identify the problem and help prevent them from invading your house.


What happens if you get stung by a velvet ant?

If you get stung by a velvet ant, it hurts. This ant produces one of the most painful stings there is, which is why it is also sometimes called the ¨cow killer ant´. But, only the female’s sting. The good news is that stinging you is the last thing they want to do. If you stay away from them, these ants are harmless. But, should you want to get rid of them, please get in touch with the PestGuide team.

Why are red velvet ants hard to kill?

Red velvet ants are hard to kill because they have three rather than just one defence mechanism. When physically attacked the female’s sting. It is toxic and really hurts. Both the male velvet ant and females have a surprisingly tough exoskeleton making them resistant to most chemicals. Their shape and hairs also make them hard for predators to kill. If you want to get rid of them Pest Guide will be able to help you to do so.

What does a velvet ant nest look like?

Velvet ants do not have nests. At least not in the traditional sense. In their immature stages they live in the ground, but not in a proper nest. That is part of the reason they are so difficult to eradicate. They are also very tough. Velvet ants give a nasty sting and have an exoskeleton and have no known predators. If you have them in your garden, avoid going barefoot. Contact us if you want to get rid of them.