Antlions are insects in the order Neuroptera with the scientific name Myrmeleontidae. Really, the title antlion only applies to the larval form of this insect family, but since it is simpler to type than Myrmeleontidae, I’ll continue to call it its unscientific name. The antlion larva is also known as a doodlebug because of the spirals it creates in the sand when searching for an ideal place to build a sand pit.
The Ferocious Antlion Larva
Antlions live mainly in sandy, warm, arid habitats. They begin life as eggs, which turn into larvae. These larvae dig pit traps in the sand. They bury themselves just under the sand at the bottom of the pit. When ants, or other arthropods, fall into the pit, they aggressively attack and drag them under the sand to eat them. This scintillating way of hunting gives the larva the name antlion.
The larva then go into the pupal stage, where the larva will cocoon themselves in mucus-like saliva and bury themselves. During this dormant stage, they turn into their adult form. They will shed their larval skin and grow into a much larger, thinner exoskeleton. Their winged form is often called antlion lacewings. In the pupal and adult stage, the antlion will not eat. Thus, their adult stage is short. It will only mate and then usually die. Thus ends and restarts the short yet interesting life of the Myrmeleontidae.