Superficially, adult antlions resemble dragonflies with two sets of wings and a long, thin thorax, but they are poor fliers and are nocturnal, unlike the sun-loving dragonfly. Adult antlions have a short lifespan and usually die within a few weeks after emerging from their cocoons.
The most fascinating stage of life for the antlion, which draws the most attention from observers, is the larval stage. Antlion larvae possess a rotund body covered with tiny hairs, but their most noticeable body part is an enormous set of pincer-like jaws. If they receive appropriate nourishment, larvae can grow to approximately one-half of an inch in length by the time pupation occurs.
Antlions Dig Their Pits
remarkable prey-trapping behavior is what sets apart antlions from
almost any other insect species. Antlions dig a small, perfectly
round pit that captures unwary small insects, which are then subdued
and eaten as a matter of course.
choose sandy soil in a sheltered location away from rain and other
disturbances to construct their pits. The sand makes digging easier
for the antlion, and it also makes escape from the pit much less
antlion constructs its pit by alternately digging and "flicking"
grains of sand from the pit. As the antlion digs, it moves backward
in a circle and continues the pit construction process until the pit
is up to two inches in diameter. Once the pit is constructed, the
antlion partially buries itself at the bottom of the pit and awaits
Antlions Capture and Eat Their Prey
can go without food for a long time, so they can afford to wait
patiently for prey. However, once a hapless insect stumbles over the
side of the pit, the antlion springs into action.
the antlion flicks sand at the prey in an effort to knock it down
into the bottom of the pit. In many cases, the collapsing sides of
the pit are sufficient to bring the prey down toward the antlion,
even if the antlion is unable to strike the prey.
once the prey has tumbled all the way to the bottom of the pit, the
antlion grasps it with its strong pincers and injects toxic enzymes
into the prey. The enzymes kill the prey and also convert internal
organs into a "soup" that can be readily sucked from the
corpse by the antlion. Once the antlion has finished feeding, it
deftly flicks the remaining portion of the carcass from the pit, and
the cycle begins anew.
Antlions Interact With Humans
their monstrous looks and ruthless killing behavior, antlions pose
absolutely no threat to any living being much larger than themselves.
They are not known to bite people, and they don't transmit any
diseases. Their digging behavior is also harmless, as antlions are
incapable of digging deep enough to cause damage.
fact, antlions have a mildly beneficial relationship with people, as
they do kill some ant species that can cause painful stings in
humans. However, antlions probably do not consume enough ants to make
a large impact in neighboring ant populations.
their harmless nature, some persons are troubled by the presence of
any insects and would rather remove them from their premises. There
is usually no need to use pesticides to kill antlions; instead,
simply mix small gravel or non-sandy soil into the areas where
antlions dig their pits. This will prevent the antlions from being
able to dig, and they will soon move to another area more suitable.
you need help in controlling antlions or any other insect species in
or around your home, then be sure to contact
assistance. They can provide you with guidance and are trained to
professionally handle any pest situation in your home.