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Velvet ant - Mutillidae - Ronisia Marocana
Velvet ant - Mutillidae - Ronisia Marocana

Velvet ants
Velvet ants (Mutillidae), also referred to as cow killers or cow ants, are actually a family of wasps in the order Hymenoptera, the suborder Apocrita, the section Aculeata and the superfamily Vespoidea. The velvet ants are divided into 7 subfamilies, which include the Mutillinae, Myrmillinae, Myrmosinae, Pseudophotopsidinae, Rhopalomutillinae, Sphaeropthalminae and Ticoplinae.
There are approximately 6000 species of velvet ants worldwide;the two subfamilies Sphaeropthalminae and Mutillinae include about 2000-3000 species. The majority of velvet ants live in tropical and subtropical regions. The earliest fossil records of velvet ants preserved in amber are 25-40 million years old.
Female velvet ants reach body lengths of 3-20 mm, have no wings, are very hairy and have a defensive sting, which can cause a lot of pain. An important characteristic, distinguishing these wasps from other wingless wasps, are the fine bristles as also as elongated pits, which they have on their sides and are known as "felt lines".
As in all Apocrita, the thorax is merged with the first abdominal segment, forming a unit called the mesosoma. The 4 segments of the mesosoma are blended together seamlessly and surrounded by a hard shell (exoskeleton) that provides effective protection against stings from bees or bumble bees when in their nests they are parasitizing to their larvae.
Some species of velvet ants are striking because of their unusual shape and colour which can be a form of mimicry, a warning or a kind of camouflage. The antennae of the males have 13 segments, the females 12. The males have normally developed compound eyes and simple eyes, while females have less developed compound eyes and no simple eyes.
The larvae of velvet ants live parasitically in the nests of Aculeata, where they consume both the larvae of the hosts, as well as their food (nectar and pollen). Adult velvet ants are active from May to October in different habitats. In midsummer, they are often encountered en masse.

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Photography with Cameras
Nikon D3x, Nikon D300, Canon 50D
Image editing with Photoshop
1. Velvet ant - Mutillidae - Ronisia Marocana
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