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Spotted-winged Antlion (Dendroleon obsoletus)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Spotted-winged Antlion

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The long wings on a delicate Spotted-winged Antlion stretch well beyond its narrow body.

Updated: 01/05/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Antlions are not damselflies nor dragonflies though some think there is a resemblance. Antlions are their own family of insects. The Spotted-winged Antlion's wings have blackish-brown spots and circular markings on them. These wings are wide at the bottom, but quickly taper at the tip of the abdomen. The antennae have small balls, or clubs at the tips, which damselflies and dragonflies do not have. Adults do not feed often and may drink nectar or eat insects.

The real star of the family though is its offspring. Larval Antlions are also called 'Doodlebugs' thanks to the labyrinth of lines they leave in the soft soil or sand they wander through. Their meandering paths look like a child's drawings. Their small round bodies have large pincers and strong mouth parts. When a good location is found, Doodlebugs dig little cone-shaped pits into the soil and sit in the narrow bottom. They wait for an ant to pass too closely to the edge where the loose soil gives way. Once the ant falls into the pit, the Doodlebug uses its mouth parts to kill the ant and eat its internal organs. Doodlebugs have big appetites, like those of a lion. This voracious reputation led to its common name.

Look for Spotted-winged Antlion adults on plants and walls. Examine areas of sandy, loose soil for the random lines drawn by artistic larvae.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Patterned insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Neuroptera
        Family: Myrmeleontidae
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          Genus: Dendroleon
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            Species: obsoletus

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Dendroleon obsoletus
Category: Antlion or Lacewing
Size (Adult; Length): 25mm to 40mm (0.98" to 1.57")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; brown
Descriptors: long; spots; blotchy; marks; wings; flying

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 25mm (1.0in) and 40mm (1.6in)
Lo: 25mm
Md: 32.5mm
Hi: 40mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Spotted-winged Antlion may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Spotted-winged Antlion. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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