Ants, Bees & Wasps (Hymenoptera)

Velvet ant ("cow killer")

Sometimes names can be misleading. Velvet ants are not ants—they are actually wasps, and even though females can inflict an extremely painful sting, they don’t actually kill cows (as far as we know). The individual in the photo is a female. We are sure of this because only females have a sting, and male velvet ants have wings!

She might be fuzzy and cute, but don't ever pick up a velvet ant!

Female velvet ants have a powerful sting!

Western Yellowjacket

Western Yellowjackets typically form large, hidden colonies in enclosed spaces (especially in abandoned rodent burrows and occasionally in attics). When viewed from above, this species has a continuous yellow ring around each eye, and it is this feature that helps to separate them from other locally common yellowjacket species. Someone remarked that it appears that this species wears yellow "goggles". Western Yellowjackets hunt for a wide variety of prey (including but not limited to slugs, grasshoppers, spiders, flies and other insects) but will also scavenge for protein.

Western yellowjackets do not seem to understand or care that it is rude to show up uninvited to a picnic

European Paper Wasp

These paper wasps are relatively new to California. They typically construct uncovered, aerial nests (with populations reportedly reaching up to 200 workers), but unlike our native paper wasps, they will also readily nest within cavities. Recently at District headquarters, a nest that was constructed within a hollow gate was accidentally disturbed and the wasps stung two people. Despite their willingness to defend their nests, if left undisturbed, these wasps may be considered beneficial because they hunt for and consume large numbers of other insects.

She might look like a yellowjacket, but she's not

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