The Antlion, or Doodlebug

By William T. Hathaway

Antlion (Dendroleon sp.)

The larval stage of the antlion builds a cone-shaped pit in dry sandy soil and waits for passing insects. Ants often slip on the dry sandy sides of the pit and fall to the bottom of the pit where they are clutched in the spiny jaws of a ravenous larva; ants are immediately devoured by the half-hidden larva. This characteristic behavior of the species accounts for the name “antlion.”

If a slender straw is touched to the bottom of an antlion pit, the larva will clutch the straw; the complete larval body (hooked by its spiny claws) can be extracted from its hiding place by a quick up-lifting tug on the straw. Most country boys and girls know about this amusing activity known as “fishing for doodlebugs.” This should not be confused with the other doodlebug tradition of fishing for tiger beetle larvae, since the tiger beetle larvae are hidden in a neatly constructed little hole — not as a cone-shaped pit.

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