Antlion of the small five
Ever noticed that small funnel-shaped pits in dry, fine soil? We take a look at a very interesting insect… the antlion.
The antlion larvae has a formidable appearance with vice like jaws and a plumb abdomen, their name applies to their laval form and the largest adults are found in the predominantly African genus Palpares which are found in Krantzkloof Nature Reserve and have a wingspan of 16cm. Antlions take between two and three years to reach their maximum size, they will dig many pits in the sand which are used as their hunting grounds before forming a spherical sand covered cocoon in which metamorphosis will occur with the winged adult known as a lacewing ultimately emerging. The adult’s wings take around 20 minutes to fully open, the insect then flies away in search of a mate.
The antlion digs a pit in the sand approximately 2 cm deep and 4 cm wide, upon completion the pit has a circular appearance. The larva then reverses deeper into the pit by using its abdomen to plough into the soft earth. With the use of one front leg and jerk like motions the antlion is able to flick loose particles of sand out of the pit, making the pit both deeper and steeper. Once the pit is complete the antlion settles into the earth at the bottom with only its outstretched jaws projecting above the surface, here the hunter patiently awaits its meal.