No one would blame you if you thought an antlion was either the world’s biggest, furriest insect or the smallest member of the feline family. Sorry to disappoint, but an antlionis not an ant or a lion. And while these critters aren’t the King of the Jungle, they are fearsome predators in their larval state.
Antlions originated in Africa and are now found in the southern United States and other warm climates throughout the world. For their size, the antlion’s jaws are as dangerous as those found on the King of Beasts, but for one deadly difference. Their pincer-like maws are hollow which allows the antlion to suck the life juices out of... wait for it… ants. That’s right, what the lion is to the wildebeest, the antlion is to the ant, hence the name.
Antlions love loose granular sand where they dig and dig until they build a perfect trap to catch their prey. After diligently creating a steep-walled, crater-like hole several inches deep, the antlion lies in wait, buried in the sand at the bottom. Only the jaws project above the surface, open wide and ready for business.
Eventually, an ant walking along the jungle floor, minding its own business, will bumble into the pit of death. That’s when the lurking antlion strikes. As the ant tries desperately to escape, the ant lion uses its long pincers to fling a shower of sand on its struggling victim until the pit collapses and buries it. The defeated ant is finally pulled down deep into sand pit. That’s when the ant lion sticks its mighty pincers into the fat ant thorax and sucks it dry.
In the southern United States, antlions are called sometimes doodlebugs because the meandering trails they make in the sand resemble the doodles of an artist. Whatever they’re called, the formidable King of the Sand Pit eventually grows into a beautiful antlion, which resembles a damselfly.