Antlion Larva Brachynemurus abdominalis
May 2007 July 2010
Photos courtesy Pete Williams, Gulf Breeze, Florida
Antlions resemble damselflies but have longer and clubbed antennae. Their soft, elongate bodies measure up to 1 3/4" with a wingspan of up to 2 1/2". The transparent wings have many cross veins. All are poor fliers. Adults drink nectar, nibble pollen, or do not eat at all.
The common name comes from the voracious habits of the larvae. Often known as doodlebugs, the larvae have oversized heads with long spiny jaws, short legs, and bristles all over their bodies. Most hide at the bottom of small pit traps made in the sand and wait for ants and other small insects to tumble down the sloping sides. Larvae in some species do not build pits but lie buried in sand or hide among debris waiting for prey.
Pupation occurs in a parchment-like cocoon buried in the sand. The adult emerges from the cocoon through an opening cut in one end, leaving the conical door still in place as though hinged.
Antlions are most common in the South and Southwest, where larval pits can be seen in most places with dry sandy soil.