Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How do you catch an antlion (ukoy-ukoy Ilk)?

Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog

Lesson: Entomology. Playing with the enigmatic antlion.

Ant falls in an antlion pit. It will soon be devoured by the hairy monster.

Larva of the antlion (Myrmeleo sp, Family Myrmeleontidae, Order Neuroptera.
In filming Star Wars, there are certain scene depicted by the subteranean life of the antlion larva

It is a unique skill we children in the province learned from old folks. It’s really nothing of value; it’s just a game, and it’s the joy of catching this subterranean insect by baiting it with another ant lion. Antlion is the larva of a Neuropteran that builds a pit trap on sandy soil under the stairs, around the house or in some corners of the field that are dry and sandy. The pit is funnel-shaped, one inch or two across, and around an inch deep at the center, underneath resides the hairy monster the size of sesame seed. There it patiently waits for an unwary ant or any insect that falls into it. The victim struggles to get out but in its attempt causes landslide that triggers the antlion to investigate and attack. Using its large pair of mandible, it drags the victim down under to become its meal.

Happy kids that we were, we would tie a live antlion with a strand of hair around its mandibles, and “fish” other antlions. First, we look for pits with occupants. To know it, we tease the occupant by causing a little landslide, and when we see sand particles being thrown back in an attempt to repair the pit, we prepare the decoy. We let the decoy dive into the middle of the pit where it is met by the inhabitant, and responding to the invasion, attacks and clings on it. We would then hoist both decoy and catch. Who fished more won, and poor antlions they had to build new nests after we had thrown them back into the ground.

Antlions, I learned many years later, are beneficial insects because they devour destructive insects such as red ants. Red ants protect aphids and mealy bugs through symbiosis, and so doing, help the latter multiply and destroy crops. The antlion metamorphoses into a beautiful adult, a fly a little larger than the mayfly (Order Ephemeroptera), into beautiful kaleidoscopic colors under the sun or under a lamp shade. ~

Antlion adult

Living with Nature, AVR; Acknowledgment: Wikipedia, Butterfly Skye's Alien Antlion Life Cycle Kit.

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