Fancy ant (but really a wasp)
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 . . .