Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Antlion :- Using tools to catch prey.
In early summer we can see small funnel-shaped pits in dry, fine soil. These pits are usually 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. As the summertime progresses, the pits become larger in diameter and more widely spaced apart. Hidden under the soil at the bottom of each pit, a predatory immature antlion waits for unsuspecting ants and other small insects to fall into the pit.
The funnel-shaped pits are constructed in dry soil or sand using a novel excavation technique. The larva heaps sand or soil onto its head and jaws and then flicks it with some force up and behind it, working in a circle to produce a conical pit. If an antlion larva encounters a small pebble or other object when it is constructing its pit, it will attempt to flick the object out of its pit. If the object is too large to flick but large enough to move, it may literally be "pushed" up and out of the pit by the larva. When the pit is completed, the larva lies motionless on the bottom, concealed beneath the sand, with only its long, piercing mandibles exposed, and lies in waiting for unsuspected prey.
Antlions, as their name implies, prey mainly on ants. The lion part of the names comes from the ferocity with which they attack any ant that comes within range of their huge jaws. Ants stumble into the pit by accident and, because it is constructed of friable soil or sand and has steep sides, they have to struggle to get out. The task is made more difficult by the antlion. While the ant is scrabbling about trying to get up the sides of the pit, the antlion is busy chucking sand at it, again using its head and jaws. Eventually the shower of sand may knock the ant within the antlion’s reach. Once seized, the ant is dragged into the sand at the bottom of the burrow where it is consumed. Adults Antlion have short antenna which thicken towards the tips. They are medium to large size with long wings. Most of them are predators on other insects although some feed on pollen. They have two pairs of membranous wings like the dragonfly, but Antlion flies slowly and short distance.
Yuwaraj Gurjar.

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