The large, fuzzy red “ant” ambling across a dry part of the trail is a wingless female wasp. She’s out in search of the nest burrows of other wasps or bees, where she’ll leave her eggs. When they hatch, the Velvet Ant brood will feed on the cache of food left for the other insect’s larvae—or else on the larvae themselves. The Velvet Ant’s brilliant coloring is a warning: she has a painful sting.
The eye-catching Velvet Ant is not really an ant at all.
What’s for Lunch:
Nectar for adults; another insect's larvae for young
Chaparral, coastal sage scrub