Nearly one thousand different types of ants make North America their home, and if you're not an ant expert, it can be hard to keep track of all of them. To make things more confusing, some pests that are known as ants, like velvet ants, aren't even real ants; velvet ants are actually a type of wasp. Here are four things you need to know about these pests.
How do you identify them?
Velvet ants have ant-like bodies, so it's no surprise that people think of them as ants. The females have three main body sections, six legs, two antennae, and no wings, just like real ants. The males have wings and look more like wasps than ants.
You can identify them by the dense hair that covers their heads and bodies. This hair is how they got the name "velvet ants," and the hair is usually bright red or orange. Some types of velvet ants have white, metallic, or black fur. If you see very hairy, ant-like creatures crawling inside your house, they're probably velvet ants.
Are they found throughout America?
Velvet ants are found throughout the southern and western states. Within their range, they prefer to live in open, sandy areas. They're active during the warmer parts of the year, and you're most likely to see them during the mid-summer months. It's possible for them to enter houses, but they'd prefer to be outside.
Do they sting?
Male velvet ants are completely harmless, but the females are a different story. Female velvet ants have a very painful sting, and this sting is so bad that it has earned these pests the nickname "cow killer." They tend to sting if you try to pick them up or if you accidentally step on them with your bare feet. If these pests live on your property, avoid touching them, and make sure to wear shoes when you're walking around outside.
How do you get rid of them?
There isn't an effective way to get rid of these wasps since they don't live in nests. You can try to make your backyard less appealing to them by seeding your lawn; thicker grass can deter the ground-nesting wasps that velvet ants feed on. If there is nothing for them to eat, they'll need to live somewhere else.
Velvet ants can give you a painful sting, so don't get too close to them and avoid walking outdoors in your bare feet. If thickening your lawn doesn't deter the pests, consider calling a pest control company, such as Mr. Bug Killer Inc, to treat your property with insecticides.