Do the Doodlebug Flip

I’ve been on a doodlebug kick ever since I finally figured out how to find the little buggers on my trip down to southeast Missouri.  I even found one in one of the tiger beetle terraria that I setup with native soil brought back from that trip, so I’ll get the chance to try to rear one out.  Shortly after finding those first antlion larvae, I traveled to Rock Island, Illinois to attend the Second Illinois Hill Prairie Conference as a panelist for the insects discussion group.  During a field trip to a nearby hilltop prairie, I spotted a pit in a bed of sawdust that had the unmistakeable look of an antlion pit.  I can’t say that I’ve ever seen an antlion pit in anything but sand, so I dug up the larva to confirm that that was, indeed, what it was.  The larval pit site must have been selected by the adult female who laid the egg, so apparently the loose sawdust had the appropriate texture to induce oviposition.  The larva was fat and happy, suggesting it was feeding well in its sawdust pit.

Antlions flick sand with their head and elongated mandibles to create the pit, and they also flick it on prey that has fallen in their pit to thwart their escape.  Watch how this one also use its head flicking ability to right itself in a most humerous manner after being flipped over:

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2009

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About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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8 Responses to Do the Doodlebug Flip

  1. Could you record that again in slow motion?;)

  2. Really cute Ted!! I would like to breed some of these out too and will see if I can find some come summer.

    • Yes, I chuckle every time I watch it.

      South Africa is a center of diversity for the group, so you should have no problem finding some in your area. Interestingly, there are many more genera that don’t make pits – the larvae are, from what I understand, almost impossible to find.

  3. Moe says:

    Nice video! I live right across the River from Rock Island – had no idea they had that conference! And we have antlions here? Cool!

  4. cedrorum says:

    I used to find these near pitfall traps I had set up in Carolina Bay Sandrims. Brings back great memories. And I agree with Adrian, slow mo would be cool.

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