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Fancy ant (but really a wasp)

September 27, 2010

This fuzzy critter was out hiking in the heat yesterday evening also. . . on the “new” lower Barham Ridge Trail between Irvine Park and Santiago Oaks. It’s called a “velvet ant” –and it does indeed look velvety and ant-like — but it’s not an ant at all. As Maxwell Smart would say, “Would you believe . . .  it’s a wingless female wasp of the Multillidae family, Dasymutilla species?”

According to Charles Hogue, in Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, “the female stings unhesitatingly.”  (Insert your own punchline here . . . )

Velvet ants come in a variety of colors, too. Look for ones with a red or orange “vestiture of long fine hairs.”

Here’s how it looks in context on the trail:

And of course I had to aim for a photo op . . .

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