Velvet Ant.

Velvet ant it’s called. The solitary fat critter all covered with soft honey colored fur. It looks like the teddy bear of the insect world. I first saw one in a book, a western flora and fauna field guide, my bedtime reading when I first moved to the North Bay of San Francisco. 30 miles north of the Golden Gate. I wanted to know the unfamiliar plants and animals, I wanted to get to know the neighborhood. And who of my intellectual bent doesn’t like being an expert and point things out? Half inch to one inch long covered with red or yellow velvety plush looking like the insect bedtime pillow mate. I read not an ant but a stingless wasp.
Three years later with my 6-year-old boy I finally see one crawling next to the flagstone walkway in the dust of late dry summer… Pick it up I say, it’s a stingless wasp. Attractive, you really wanted to touch it. I had misread the guide, a wingless wasp, though hardly stingless. And reading later sitting with my traumatized son, his swollen hand in a bowl of ice water, that in Texas they are called cow-killer wasps, the sting being of such heft. The big expert, twenty-five years later writing this.

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