Ant lions are small (1.5cm) insets that devour ants! They are brown and have huge jaws. They are also called Doodlebugs. I have even seen these guys walk backwards! This bug is the coolest bug I have ever witnessed!
Ant Lion larvae-Clemson University (top left), Larvae-Mark Swanson (top right), Larvae-Mark Swamson (Bottom)
Adult ant lions are greeny brown with 4 transparent wings. They look like dragonflies only they are smaller about 4cm and their antennae are shorter. Ant lion larvae sometimes hide under bark and grab any ants passing by. They dig a pit in sandy areas where they wait for unsuspecting ants to fall in. Pits can be as large as 5cm in diameter.
Larvae-UF Dept. of Entomology/Nematology (top left), Adult fly-Mark Swanson (top right), Adult fly (Madagascar)-Missouri Botanical Gardens (bottom)
Ant lions like dry sandy places, and can be found almost anywhere suiting these conditions…vacant lots, flower gardens, dry river beds, and under hedges. There are many different species and are found worldwide. They are most definitely a beneficial insect as they eat not only ants but other harmful bugs and any bugs that fall into their trap. Adults are mostly active at night and are rarely seen during the day. Ant lion pits may be identified by the dead carcasses around the pit. To have some fun with these guys… sit there one day and feed them ants and other tasty bugs. It is a worthwhile education for you and your children.
Ant lion pits-UF Dept. of Entomology/Nematology (left) diagram of the ‘Trap’ (right)
I took these pictures in my yard today June 15,2006. We have had a drought for the second year running in Texas, so the antlions are rampant.
Ant lion larvae burrow deep into the sand make a cocoon and pupate surrounded in white silky strands. After about one month the pupae hatch into the tiny flies. The flies emerge from the ground where they wait for their wings to harden. They may eat tiny flies and bugs but their only purpose is to mate and lay eggs. This lasts for about one month on average. The females lay their eggs in the sand. Expect one generation per year. The larvae do most of their work in the summer months.
PS: I included many pix so you will be sure NOT to destroy them