Velvet Ant

I found this gal scurrying about the yard this morning.

I knew if I took my eyes off of her, I’d never find her again, so I yelled for Dayna to grab a container.  Once I had her secured, I placed her and another velvet ant — a different species that I found yesterday — in a covered 10 gallon aquarium until I could get around to setting up my camera gear.  When I returned, the other was gone and I’ve yet to figure out just how.  Neither seemed to have the ability to climb the glass sides of the aquarium and there was a freaking screen over the top.  Oy vey!

The one in the photo is Dasymutilla quadriguttata —no common name — and is, of course, a wasp and not an ant.  It was small, about 10 mm, and the lack of wings indicates it to be a female since only the males have wings.  In fact, the Dasymutilla species exhibit such extreme sexual dimorphism that males and females are often described as separate species and apparently even different genera in some cases.  There are two methods to match sexes: find a pair in copula (good luck with that) or rear them from the same host at the same time.  Dasymutilla was recently (2009) revised and seventeen species and subspecies were determined to be indistinguishable from D. quadriguttata and lumped together under that species.  I wanted to read the paper, over my head though it undoubtedly is, but it’s housed behind a pay wall and I refuse to drop $30–40 to view it. 

The one that got away was also a female and also a Dasymutilla, this time D. occidentalis, more commonly known as the Cow Killer.  D. occidentalis is fairly common in this area — I think I’ve even previously posted a photo — and about twice the size of D. quadriguttata, or approximately 20 mm.  I’d hoped to have a nice macro close up of that individual to post as well, but things don’t always go the way you want.  I still can’t figure out how the blasted thing got out of the aquarium.  Aliens, most likely.  Surprised smile

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