MutillidaeAglaotilla Bothriomutilla rugicollis (Mutillid Wasp)

Referred to as Mutillid Wasps, the Mutillidae are a family of more than 7,000 species of wasps whose wingless females resemble large, hairy ants. They are also commonly known as Velvet Ants, that refer to their resemblance to ants. This group of wasp like ants usually have dense hair, that can be bright scarlet or orange, black, white, silver or gold. These colours serve as “aposematic signals”.

Velvet Ant (Mutillidae), Severnlea QLD © Marc Newman
Velvet Ant (Mutillidae), Severnlea QLD © Marc Newman

Aposematic signals are used in avoidance learning, signalling to predators that they are unpalatable prey

Aposematism (Greek, apo = away, sematic = sign) is the use of colouration as a warning, informing potential predators that this creature is poisonous, venomous, or dangerous. Whilst orange or red patterns are quite common warning colours, this is necessarily not always the case, as some insects are known to mimic the warning colours.

Felt ant, nth of Mullewa on the Carnarvon-Mullewa Rd WA © Marc Newman
Felt ant, nth of Mullewa on the Carnarvon-Mullewa Rd WA © Marc Newman

The Velvet Ant is a female wingless wasp, that is usually bigger then the typical ant. Different species have varied patterns in red and black in various patterns, with some that are almost all red in colour. Other Velvet Ants species are yellow and black, with others being white, some having metallic sheen. The female of the species have extremely painful stings. The male Velvet Ants are also colourful, have wings and no stingers.

Wingless female Velvet Ant (Tribe Dasymutillini), Alice Springs NT
Wingless female Velvet Ant (Tribe Dasymutillini), Alice Springs NT

Unlike true ants, Mutillids are solitary insects and are not considered aggressive, stinging only in defence.

Genus Aglaotilla, Samsonvale QLD © Tony Eales
Genus Aglaotilla, Samsonvale QLD © Tony Eales
Velvet Ant (Tribe Dasymutillini), Freshwater National Park QLD © Tony Eales
Velvet Ant (Tribe Dasymutillini), Freshwater National Park QLD © Tony Eales
Velvet Ant (Mutillidae), Severnlea QLD © Marc Newman
Velvet Ant (Mutillidae), Severnlea QLD © Marc Newman

  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Informal: Pterygotes
  • Order: Hymenoptera
  • Superfamily: Vespoidea
  • Family: Mutillidae
  • Subfamily:
    • Mutillinae
    • Sphaeropthalminae

Footnote & References

  1. Insects of Perth & South West Western Australia, https://www.facebook.com/groups/925620167561301/
  2. Mutillidae, Atlas of Living Australia, https://bie.ala.org.au/species/https://biodiversity.org.au/afd/taxa/39e1070e-5cdc-4f24-870d-5d1b951cb954
  3. Velvet Ants (Family Mutillidae), iNaturalistAU, https://inaturalist.ala.org.au/taxa/48511-Mutillidae

MutillidaeAglaotilla Bothriomutilla rugicollis (Mutillid Wasp)

WaspsAustralian Large Wasps Australian Mud Nest Wasps Mud Wasp Abispa ephippium Aulacidae Australodynerus Bembicinae Bembix Blue Hairy Flower Wasp Chrysididae Cryptocheilus bicolor (Orange Spider Wasp) Delta latreillei (Potter Wasp) Eumeninae Ferreola handschini (Orange-collared Spider Wasp) Flower Wasps Gasteruptiid Wasp Hairy Flower Wasps Isodontia (Grass-carrying Wasp) Lissopimpla excelsa (Orchid Dupe Wasp) Mutillidae Paralastor sp. Pseudabispa bicolor ssp. nigrocinctoides Radumeris radula (Yellow Hairy Flower Wasp) Radumeris tasmaniensis (Yellow Hairy Flower Wasp) Sceliphron laetum Thynnid Wasps Tiphiidae Yellow and Black Wasp

InsectsBees Beetles Blattodea Butterflies Coleoptera Cicada Crabronidae Diptera Dragonflies & Damselflies Formicidae Hemiptera Mango Planthopper Moths Orthoptera Orthopteroid Processionary Caterpillar Stink Bugs, Shield Bugs and Allies Syrphidae Wasps Water Scorpion Witchetty Grub