Shri Jasnath Asan, Rajasthan, India
Photo © Shri Jasnath Asan, 2016
12 NOV 2016 - Part II
While atop my trusty Mamoo I was ever the observant naturalist. As we marched and swayed our way across the sandy soil I looked down and everywhere in the sandy sail near small bunch grasses and shrubs were the dimples and divots of the ant lion's bizarre little traps.
Ant lions are found around the world and most commonly occur in dry sandy habitats where the larvae can construct their ingenious traps. The antlion larva is a ferocious-looking animal with a robust body, huge abdomen, and a thorax bearing six walking legs. They have a flattened head with an enormous pair of sickle-like jaws with several sharp, hollow projections that fit perfectly with the lower mandible forming an enclosed canal for injecting venom to immobilize the victim, and enzymes to digest its victim’s soft parts. If that wasn’t enough, the larva is covered by forward-pointing bristles which help it to anchor itself in the loose soil and thus giving it great traction and enabling it to capture prey considerably larger than itself.
I’m just glad they are only about a centimeter or less in size. I would die of fright if I even saw one even the size of a house cat.
THE INGENIOUS TRAP
Since the steep sides of the pit consist of loose sand it affords an insecure foothold to any unfortunate small insect that happens to fall in. Slipping to the bottom, the prey is immediately seized by the lurking antlion. If the hapless insect attempts an escape up the pit walls, the ant lion throws sand at it from the bottom of the pit or undermines the sides of the pit, causing them to collapse and deliver the prey to the antlion.
The adult are dramatically different from the larvae and instead look much like a delicate lacewing or small damselfly.
You don’t have to come to India to see ant lions, take a walk in Red Rock canyon or any sandy arid region in the desert southwest, where there is very fine dry soils. Chances are you will find numerous pit traps of these fierce little predators dimpling the sandy soil.
1. Why are ant lions also called doodlebugs?
2.Get online and find photos of the larvae and the adults.
3. When you are on your field trips try and find an ant lion trap.
Along the Way
Panchla Siddha, India
Sharon K. Schafer
I paint, photograph, and speak about wild places in an act of reciprocity that is as vital to me as heartbeat or breath.
My interest in the magic and mystery of the natural world lies at the intersection of art and science.
Made possible through
the generosity of
Artists for Conservation
Generous support and inspiration provided by
Shri Jasnath Asan