The Mutillidae are a family of more than 7,000 species of wasps whose wingless females resemble large, hairy ants. Their common name velvet ant refers to their dense pile of hair, which most often is bright scarlet or orange, but may also be black, white, silver, or gold. Their bright colors serve as aposematic signals.
They are known for their extremely painful stings, (the sting of the species Dasymutilla klugii rated a 3 on the Schmidt pain index and lasts up to 30 minutes), and has resulted in the common name "cow killer" or "cow ant" being applied to the species Dasymutilla occidentalis. However, mutillids are not aggressive and sting only in defense. In addition, the actual toxicity of their venom is much lower than that of honey bees or harvester ants. Unlike true ants, they are solitary, and lack complex social systems.