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I ain’t lyin’

January 5, 2014

DSCN1778In the sand around our house there are conical-shaped depressions (see picture left). These are traps set by ant-lions (family Myrmeleontidae, from the Greek myrmex for ant and leon for lion). Ant-lions are the larval form of an insect commonly known as a lacewing. Lacewings are nocturnal insects that look superficially like damselflies but are of a different Order. They differ from damselflies by having clubbed antenna and whereas a damsel fly has a very strong and directed flight, the lacewings appear to ‘flutter’ about.

antlion3

After mating, lacewings lay eggs in the sand. The hatched ant-lion builds a pit in the sand by working its way in a backward spiral, shovelling sand on to its head which it uses to flick the sand out of the ever-widening pit. When finished the ant-lion buries itself at the bottom of the pit (see picture right) with just the two pincers showing. If ants or other small insects walk too close to the pit they slip down the steep sides. If the ants attempt to escape, the ant-lion will flick up sand grains causing the walls to slip, sending the ant into its waiting jaws.

Revealed!

Revealed!

If you see these ant traps you can gently blow the sand out of the pit to reveal the ant-lion crouched in the bottom. Don’t do this too often – how would you like your house blown away every day? An interesting fact about the ant-lion is that it has no anus. I ain’t lyin’.

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