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  • Antlion - (Vella fallax texana)

    Antlion - (Vella fallax texana)

    Large adult Antlions look frightening, but it is their charming offspring that earned them their ferocious name.


    Picture of Antlion


    Staff Writer (10/20/2014): The harmless adult Antlion is hard to miss. This species is the biggest of all North American Antlions Its wingspan (not listed in size data) can stretch to 120mm (over 4.5 inches). While the name seems unusual for an insect, it makes more sense when the feeding habits of its younger self is explored.

    The larval Antlion is also called a Doodlebug. They are only able to walk backwards and, in doing so, create a trench as they go. They meander as they walk, creating doodles in the loose soil or sand. These child-like sketches are endearing, but they are also great tools for tracking the actual Antlion to its pit of death. Once the offspring has found a suitable location, it will build a cone-shaped crater in the loose sand or dirt where it will lie in wait for its next meal, much like a lioness.

    Larval antlions dig these burrows and then sit in them with their heads just below the surface. When a careless ant walks over the hole, or falls in, the larval Antlion snatches it with its huge jaws. It stabs the ant with a straw-like body part that injects digestive enzymes into the ant and then allows the Antlion to suck all of the liquified internal parts out. This method of hunting will continue until the young Antlion develops into a winged adult. Fortunately for people, the mighty jaws of the young Antlion are too small to do any damage to skin.

    Adult Antlions drink nectar and eat pollen. They may also consume other insects. They are attracted to lights at night, like moths, and are seen in the daytime resting on tree trunks or walls of buildings. They are weak fliers and are most active in spring and summer. They are considered beneficial to have around since they control ant populations, help pollinate flowers and are no threat to humans.

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    Details of the:
    Antlion


    Category: Antlion or Lacewing
    Common name: Antlion
    Scientific Name: Vella fallax texana
    Other Names: Doodlebug

    Taxonomy:
      Kingdom: Animalia
       Phylum: Arthropoda
        Class: Insecta
         Order: Neuroptera
          Family: Myrmeleontidae
           Genus: Vella
            Species: fallax texana





    Size (Adult, Length): 60mm to 70mm (2.36in to 2.76in)

    Identifying Colors: black, white, gray, silver

    Additional Descriptors: huge, long, large, fuzzy, hairy, flying, wide eyes, wings, helpful, jaws


    North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Arizona; California; Nevada; New Mexico; Texas; Utah; Mexico


    * Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.





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