The Velvet Ant (Dasymutila sp.), or Hormiga de terciopelo in Spanish, is not an ant at all. It’s a wasp!
The wingless wasp we know as a velvet ant is the female that spends most of her time on the ground, while male velvet ants have wings and are seen less frequently. The soft fuzzy exterior is deceptive; it covers a harder exoskeleton and is a venomous insect that can deliver a painful sting if bothered or threatened. Found mostly in the desert and foothills, the velvet ant also resides in San Diego County’s coastal habitats.
If you see one while hiking the trails of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, do yourself a favor and leave it alone.