Antlions – What you need to know

antlion-collageAntlions are common, conspicuous insects in Florida. Florida has the richest antlion fauna in the eastern United States with 22 species in nine genera. Four species are found only in the Keys.  Most people know this insect because of the funnel-shaped pit, up to 2 inches in diameter and depth, produced by the larval stages of this insect to trap ants.

Children in the southern United States coined the term “doodlebugs” to describe their antics. In the summer, homeowners sometimes notice small funnel-shaped pits next to their foundations, usually in fine, dry soil or sand. A few people even call about these pits, worried they are signs of termites.  Larvae have globular abdomens and narrower, flattened heads bearing sickle-shaped jaws. Adults superficially resemble damsel flies or dragonfly-like. Adults Antlions are a drab-color with 2 pair of long, narrow wings and a long slender abdomen.

Adults fly infrequently and lay eggs in the sand. The larva develops through several stages (instars), digging many pits, before pupating in a spherical, sand-covered cocoon in the spring or summer. Development may occur over two years.

Larvae have piercing jaws (mandibles) used to pierce ant bodies and suck out body fluids. Larvae produce traps by burrowing into the sand and will remain buried at the bottom of the pit trap with only their jaws exposed. Ants and other small insects falling in the trap are prevented from leaving by the larvae constantly throwing more sand up onto the sides of the trap.

Look for larval pit traps in dry sandy areas, such as underneath eaves of houses or overhanging rocks. Larvae can be sifted out of the sand. Antlions are absolutely harmless and cause no damage to flowers, people or structures. You can handle them and they do not bite. They only feed on ants and other insects that fall into their traps.

If you live in Naples, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, or anywhere in Southwest Florida and would like to know more about Antlions or any of our services, call 239-455-4300, Collier Pest Control, Southwest Florida’s Pest Authority or look us up on our website at Remember Florida does not have to be shared with pests.

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