Velvet ants are fairly large, from ¼ inch to over 1 inch in length.
Velvet ants are covered with long hairs of bright colors, from red to orange to yellow to white, or combinations of several colors.
Velvet ants are actually wasps. The female has a stinger, but no wings and resembles a large, hairy ant. Males are smaller, do not have a stinger, and have well developed wings for flight. Females are often found rapidly walking over the soil surface in their search of food. Velvet ants are active during the day, and they may be some of the first insects to hit the trail in the morning and last to settle in for the night. They retreat from high ground temperatures in the middle of the day by burrowing under debris or climbing into plants.
Nectar is their preferred food.
After mating, female velvet ants go in search of wasp or bee pupal chambers. Once found, they enter a nest and use their ovipositor to lay an egg on or near the host. If the parent is still present, the velvet ant may be carried away by the other bee or wasp. A grub-like larva eventually emerges from the egg, feeds on its host, and grows to full size in a matter of days.
Velvet ants are solitary wasps. They are often referred to as “cow killers" because their painful sting is said to be able to kill a cow.