Antlion (Glenurus spp)
Detailing the identifying qualities of the Antlion, including physical features and territorial reach.
Updated: 1/31/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Elegant adult Antlions may be delightful to watch, but their quirky little larvae offer far more interesting behaviors to observe.
Antlions get their name thanks to the diet of their larvae. A small Antlion larva is also known an a 'doodlebug'. Doodlebugs are ground dwellers and have a huge set of intimidating jaws. These small larvae look like beetles, but they can only walk backwards. In their wake, they leave a curvy lines of loose soil or sand that resembles random doodles. These trails can lead a bug finder all the way back to their pits of doom.
Doodlebugs dig cone-shaped holes into the soft soil or sand and lay in the bottom. When an ant at the surface gets too near the edge, it slips into the hole and slides down to the waiting jaws of the Antlion larva. The Antlion larva will grab the ant and use part of its mouth parts to inject an enzyme that allows the internal body parts to be easily sucked out of the ant. The Antion larva's large appetite for ants, and the ferocity in which it dispatches them, led to the insect's name.
Once a larva matures, an adult Antlion more closely resembles a damselfly or dragonfly than its larval Doodlebug form. Adult Antlions, in contrast to dragonflies, have short antennae, are weak fliers, and are nocturnal. They may eat nectar and pollen. Adults can be found at night in tall grasses out in open habitats. Their larvae can be found in open fields of sandy soil, at the base of trees, on the dusty floors of barns or sheds, or under rock ledges. Both life stages are most active in spring and summer.