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What are Antlions?
Why are they called antlions?
Interrelationships with other animals
Antlions are a family of insects given the zoological classification Myrmeleontidae. The name is rooted in the Greek words myrmex (ant) and leon (lion). The family Myrmeleontidae is part of the order Neuroptera, translated variously as "nerve wings," "net wings," or "sinew wings." All Neuroptera have four wings marked by a netlike pattern of veins. The order Neuroptera, which includes dobsonflies andlacewings, is the most primitive order of insects with complete metamorphosis (Arnett 1985, 249). Why are they called antlions?
The name "antlion" best describes this insect's predacious larval form—a mottled gray or brown creature with an oversized head, spiny jaws, short legs, and a soft body covered in bristles (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Antlion larva (Myrmeleon sp.).
© 2005 Mark Swanson
Since it preys primarily on ants, the antlion is, metaphorically speaking, a "lion" among ants. The larvae of some antlion species hide under bits of debris or wood and attack passing insects.
Figure 3. Antlion adult (Myrmeleon sp.).
© 2005 Mark Swanson
In sandy regions, some species dig a shallow cone-shaped pit and wait at the bottom for an ant or other insect to slip on the loose sand and fall in, only to be immediately devoured (Arnett 1985, 260). These pit-digging antlions are called "doodlebugs" in the United States because of the designs they make in the sand. As a doodlebug seeks an ideal location to dig its pit, it leaves meandering trails that resemble the random "doodles" of a preoccupied artist (Figure 2). When it finally finds the right place to dig, the doodlebug "draws" a series of concentric spirals, each deeper than the last,
Figure 2. Sand "doodles" created by an antlion larva (Myrmeleon sp.).
© 2005 Mark...
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