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Meet the parents

February 4, 2019
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The handsome creature pictured to the left is the larva of an antlion. The habits of antlion larvae were described in a blog five years ago (click HERE). They hunt by creating funnels in the sand. When an unsuspecting creature (usually an ant) slips down the slope of the funnel, the antlion larva waiting hidden at the bottom grabs the ant and drags it under the surface. It then immobilises the ant, injects it with enzymes and sucks out the juices. If you want to see one, locate the tell-tale funnel in a bare patch of sand and gently blow into it. The larva will be revealed at the bottom of the funnel. The parents though are much harder to find.

During the warm summer nights we usually leave our unscreened windows open. Last week an adult antlion (pictured right and below) appeared in our bathroom. Adult antlions look sort of like a dragonfly, sort of like a damselfly…sort of. Like damselflies, antlions fold their wings along their body (see below). But that is where the similarity ends. Antlions have long clubbed antennae whereas damselfly antennae are very short (click on photo far bottom left). In flight the antlion action is ‘fluttery’ compared to the direct motion of a damselfly.

Damselfly

Adult antlions are nocturnal, which is why we rarely see them. The fact that their lifespan is measured in weeks rather than months doesn’t help either. Depending on the species adult antlions eat nectar and pollen or small invertebrates.

Even though you’ve now met the parents it’s hard to see the family resemblance in the larvae.

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