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Antlion (doodlebug) larva
(John Obermeyer, Purdue University)
Common Name: Antlion (doodlebug) - larva
See also: adult | benefit

Scientific Name: Myrmeleontidae; sp.

Status: beneficial predator

Beneficial Stage: immature

Biology: Antlions are beneficial predators of small insects. Adult antlions resemble a damselfly in body shape but are poor fliers that usually only fly at night. They have long clubbed antennae that measure 1½ the length of the head. They have a long, slender abdomen with two pairs of narrow, multiveined wings.

The immature antlion-sometimes called a doodlebug, due to the winding trails it leaves in the sand as it crawls about-bears a relatively enormous pair of hollow mandibles, each with several sharp, teethlike projections. These sharp hypodermic-needle-like jaws are designed to pierce its victim and suck out fluids.

Some antlion larvae excavate a characteristic conical pit in the sand that appears as a minivolcano. It is created as the antlion crawls backwards in circles while flipping out sand grains with its long jaws. As it moves round and round, the pit gradually gets deeper and deeper. Eventually the crater reaches 2 inches across and almost as deep, with very smooth, steep walls. The larva then hides at the bottom of the pit, only its open jaws protrude from the sand. When small crawling insects, such as ants, fall into the pit they slide to the bottom where they are instantly seized by the powerful jaws of the antlion.