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