How an Antlion larva traps an ant

The above video clip was documented by Tang Hung Bun at Noordin Beach, Pulau Ubin, Singapore in July 2006. It shows how an antlion larva traps an ant with its funnel-shaped pit.

The larva buries itself at the bottom of the pit waiting for a prey to drop in. Once a prey, usually an ant, strumbles into the pit, it would try to scramble up the steep slope to get out. The movements of the sand alert the larva that then kicks the surrounding sand to cause the ant to slip down further. Once within reach, the larva grabs hold of the ant with its powerful jaws, draws it into the sand and sucks it dry.

The above image shows the antlion larve lurking at the bottom of the sand pit with a beetle clamped between its jaws. The image below shows the larva in all its glory.

The antlion (Family: Myrmeleonidae) is an insect belonging to the order Neuroptera. The name actually refers to the larva because of its ferocious behaviour. The adult looks like a damselfly (below right). The image on the left (below) shows a series of antlion larva pits in dry, loose sand.

Once the larva is fully developed, it turns into a pupa. The pupa remains buried in the sand until the adult emerges when the latter climbs to the surface.

Credit:Tang Hung Bun (video); Prof Cheong Loong Fah (images).

2 Responses

  1. Am

    I had always thought the holes in the sand were made by hermit crabs only. I had no idea an insect like this inhabited seashores. Does the adult eat, or is its sole purpose to mate then die? Also, does it bite humans?

    • BESG

      Antlion pits are found inland where the sand is dry and loose. The adults may eat pollen and nectar or even small arthropods. The larva will bite if handled without care – look at the large and fierce jaws. But the adults are generally harmless.

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