What do you get when you combine super strength, a vibrantly colored costume, powerful chemical weapons, indestructible body armor, lightning speed, and supersonic screaming powers? One badass bug. This might sound like a new comic book superhero created by Marvel, but it is in fact the amazing female velvet ant. These tiny insects, which are actually wingless wasps, have developed so many defense mechanisms that they have literally wiped out almost all danger from natural predators. No one messes with these guys…I mean girls.
The first weapon in their arsenal is their brightly colored furry bodies. These bright colors act as a warning sign to any predators. Not only that, but the velvet ants have evolved to mimic each other, so predators aren’t just confronted with one bright red stop sign, but many. If the bright color doesn’t deter a would-be predator, they move on to emitting a strident squeak, which feels similar to a mini jackhammer beginning to go off inside the other animal’s head. But that’s not all. The velvet ant also has incredibly strong, muscular legs and a hard, slippery, round outer shell, making it 11 time harder to crush a velvet ant than it is to crush a honeybee. If none of this works, which is very rare, they also have a notoriously painful sting that causes intense burning, among other reactions, that lasts anywhere from five to thirty minutes.
Because of these many superpowers velvet ants have no true predators. Scientists instead think they may be used to protect the velvet ants when they are laying their eggs. Velvet ants lay their eggs in the heavily guarded closed nests of wasps and bees. The female velvet ants break into these nests and lay their eggs, which, after hatching, eat the larva of the wasps or bees to prepare it to pupate and then leave the nest as an adult. These critters are hardcore.
Have you ever come across a velvet ant? Did you wonder what the hell kind of insect it was?