The deserts of southern California house a diverse and unique insect fauna. Velvet ants (Hymenoptera: Mutillidae) are common in these deserts. Velvet ants are important to ecosystem health, particularly in desert environments, because they are parasitic on the bees and wasps that help maintain overall ecosystem function. The goal of this study was to measure velvet ant diversity across the deserts of southern California, We made preliminary collections from 10 sites in a variety of areas in the western Sonoran Desert (Colorado Desert), the Mojave Desert, and the Great Basin Desert. We measured β-diversity using Sørensen's similarity index to compare velvet ant richness and relative abundance between different sites. To determine how accurate our similarity estimates were, and to gain an understanding of actual velvet ant diversity, we also compared velvet ant richness of 2 sites (Algodones Sand Dunes and Deep Canyon) using data obtained from the examination of museum specimens borrowed from over 12 museums across the West, Comparisons of velvet ant faunas between sites revealed low similarities (0.167–0.75 species richness only; 0.022–0.67 both abundance and richness), Low similarity values indicate that a rich velvet ant fauna exists in the deserts of southern California.
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Vol. 70 • No. 2