Velvet Ants and Sun Spiders

Neither ants, nor spiders

There are a couple of bugs that don’t get much attention and are not very well understood. First is the velvet ant. Velvet ants are not real ants. They are wingless female wasps that resemble large, hairy ants. There are several species so they come in different colors. One species is red and black. Another is yellow and black and there are others. The male velvet ants do have wings. Velvet ants are also known as cow killers, because they have a very painful sting that is said to be able to kill a cow. That may be a slight exaggeration. They are solitary wasps and do not live in colonies. They spend their time wandering around yards, digging in the soil and occasionally entering a garage or home by accident. They are not at all aggressive, but will sting to defend themselves and the sting is very painful as I said. Apparently they make a squeaking sound when stepped on. I stepped on one in my yard in Rio Rancho many years ago and I didn’t hear the squeak, but the sting was so painful I was screaming pretty loud.

They have an unusual way of making a living. The adult females feed on nectar and drink water. They go into the holes made by cicada killer wasps and lay eggs in the cicada killer’s cocoon. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the cicada killer larvae. Then the velvet ant larvae pupate and eventually emerge as an adult. Then the female adults will eventually mate with winged male velvet ants and start the process over.

Velvet ants do no damage at all, and as I said, are not aggressive. Pesticides are not necessary to control them. It would be a good idea not to walk barefoot in your yard.

Sun Spider
Sun Spider
Marswalker / CC BY 3.0

The other “bug” I will mention is the sun spider. The sun spider is not really a spider, but they are arachnids as are spiders. They are also called camel spiders and wind scorpions but they are not scorpions either. They are not venomous and not at all dangerous. They are tan in color, have eight legs, a pair of long pedipalps and have large, muscular jaws. They can bite if picked up. Sun spiders are very fast and very good at catching prey to eat. They will eat cockroaches or any large insects, spiders, scorpions and occasionally small lizards.

They occasionally enter homes under doors or through any void, but will not infest your home. The females dig burrows outside and deposit about a 100 eggs or so. They will not breed in your house. The best method of control is to sweep them into a jar or can and put them outside, where they can continue to help you control pests outside. Pesticides are not necessary to control sun spiders.

If you have any pest questions, you can contact me at askthebugman2013@gmail.com or by phone at 505-385-2820. I want everyone to enjoy a pesticide free summer.