Antlion Pit

drawing of an ant lion pit
antlion larva specimen

The antlion larva (Order Neuroptera, Family Myrmeleontidae) captures its prey by trapping it in a steep, smooth-sided pit which it constructs by spiraling around in fine-grained sand. The larva hides itself under a thin layer of sand and waits for passing prey to fall into the pit. When the prey falls in, its struggles to climb out loosens the sand, which in turn causes the prey to slide toward the bottom of the pit where the antlion larva awaits with open, spine-covered, mandibles. After seizing the prey, the antlion injects it with poison to induce paralysis and then proceeds suck out the body fluids.

The antlion larva is only about 1.5 cm in length, yet it is able to capture prey much larger than itself because its entire body is covered in stiff hairs that anchor it to the sand in which it is buried.

Videos of antlion larvae digging pits and capturing prey can be viewed at The Antlion Pit website: