Sunday, August 9, 2009


This is the larva of the Antlion, a master predator. You’re not mistaken if you are thinking those are functional jaws. This larva would normally be found buried in loose soil, but I lifted this one onto some paper for a better picture.

Here it is heading, I mean backing into the soil. It will work its way downward as it constructs a circular pit in the soil. Only dry, loose soil works for this operation, so you normally only find these larvae in areas that are protected from heavy rainfall.

Here is a completed pit, located next to the house foundation where the roof overhang protects the soil from rain. The larva sits buried at the bottom of this pit with only the jaws exposed. Insects walking into the pit fall downward with the loose soil where they are grabbed by the waiting Antlion.

The remains of a day’s feast, a beetle and a couple of ants. The Antlion will clean out and rebuild the pit each day.

An adult Antlion clinging to the door of my barn. Although I see the larvae all summer long, I rarely get to see an adult. They are impressive insects.

The head looks to me like it was put on backwards. It seems equipped with the classic bug-eyed monster features.

These pigmented areas of the wing are fascinating. The wing venation becomes very intricate and complicated here. The slight ripple to the wings makes me think this adult is recently emerged and the wings have not yet fully enlarged.


  1. Great Post Steve, I have photographed the jaws sticking out from the bottom of their traps, but never plucked a larva out and shot, or even looked at, the whole organism. Very cool.


  2. Tom - I normally don't dig animals out of their homes for a photo shoot, but antlions seem to suffer a lot of disruption without any harm. The dusty sites used by antlions are the same areas that birds like to use for dust baths. Antlions are quick to dig a new pit and frequently change trap locations.

  3. Oh my goodness...fascinating! I'm so glad I found your blog. I've got a lot to learn. Now I have something new to look for in dusty areas...