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Ant Lions

Here in Colorado, approximately 50 species of ant lions are present. In the southern portion of the United States these insects are more commonly known as doodle bugs.    Adults are commonly confused with damselflies; however, their knobbed or clubbed antennae are a feature that upon close examination can easily differentiate the two.  During the day, adult ant lions hide and are difficult to detect.  At night adults emerge and are attracted to lights in search of a mate.  Females lay eggs one at a time in dry, sandy soil with up to twenty eggs being placed within a small area. The hatching ant lion larvae are hungry and promptly begin construction on their pit fall traps to catch prey.  Ant Lion pit traps are cone shaped and up to one inch in depth.  Ant Lions are called doodle bugs due to the patterns left in the sand as they move.  Although ant lions consume mostly ants, they also consume several other types of insects.  Ant lion larvae bury themselves in the bottom of the pit leaving only their head and large mandibles sticking out of the sand.  At times, when insects fall into the pit they will manage to stop themselves from sliding down the side; in these cases, the ant lion will throw sand at the prey in order to knock it down.  Ant lions are considered to be beneficial insects as they consume other pests and do not cause damage.  Children are often fascinated with ant lion larvae which may be placed carefully into a container with a minimum of 3 inches of sand and at least 5 inches per ant lion in order to avoid overcrowding.  A minimum of twice daily feedings of ants provides substantial food for the ant lions.  Larvae will produce a cocoon in which they complete their transformation.  Those taken into captivity should be returned to the outdoors or the container covered to prevent escape of the adult ant lion.  Placing an upright stick into the container provides the adult ant lion with a perch on which it can dry and stabilize its wings.  Female ant lions laying eggs are at times captured and taken as prey by larvae.