The term antlion refers to the larvae of these lacewings. They live at the bottom of distinctive conical pits in loose, dry soil in sheltered areas such as under raised houses and decks or underneath rock overhangs. The inner surfaces of their jaws usually have three teeth before the tips. There are several different species of pit-forming antlions. Adults are about 20-35 mm long with a wingspan around 35-65 mm. They are usually dark-coloured, sometimes with yellow markings. Their wings are transparent, usually without dark markings. The antennae are short and thickened at the tips.
The larvae feed on ants and other small invertebrates that fall into their pit traps. The prey can’t gain a firm footing on the loose sides of the pit and is bombarded by soiled flicked up by the ant lion. The prey then falls to the bottom of pit where the ant lion impales it with large, sickle-shaped jaws. Powerful saliva is injected, liquefying the prey’s internal tissues which are then sucked up by the antlion. Unlike other lacewing larvae, antlions are only able to move backwards.
The conical pits made by antlion larvae.
An adult antlion lacewing, Myrmeleon acer.
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