Not an ant but a wasp. Also called “Cow Killer” although according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension it is doubtful that they kill cows. The female red velvet ants are covered with downy, velvety black and red orange hairs and resemble the shape of an ant, albeit much larger measuring about three quarters of an inch. Females are wingless and can run pretty fast. They pack a powerful stinger that is also used as the ovipositor. Males have black wings and cannot sting.
The Red Velvet Ant is a solitary parasitoid wasp and looks for food sources in nectar from flowers, water and the larvae from beetles and bees. When you see a red velvet ant scurrying on the ground it is probably looking for the nest of a host such as ground nesting bees or cicada killers. The females burrow into the nest and eat part of the cocoons of a host larva and deposit a single egg on the larva. As they go through complete metamorphosis eating the host larva they finally pupate before hatching into a red velvet ant.
The sting is venomous. On the Schmidt Insect Sting Pain Index the pain lasts for about 30 minutes compared to the sting of a red fire ant which lasts about 5 minutes. Of course, pain varies from person to person so the pain index is an approximation. Notable is the sting of a Bullet Ant found in tropical rainforests of Central and South America which delivers the most painful sting in the world and lasts 300 minutes according to the Schmidt Index.
Red Velvet Ants prefer sandy soils and are most common during the summer months.