Where to begin ... ant lions are like those smells that instantly bring back memories. "Windsong" perfume = a bevy of high school sweeties, diesel fumes = loading semis at Povia Brothers farm, roasting turkey = Mom's kitchen ... don't even get me started about the smell of the sea ... I could fill this post.
This post is not about smells of course. It's about antlions ..."Doodlebugs" if you please. When I see their little pit traps, I am instantly transported to my grandparent's huge white Victorian house that commanded a curve on Palmer Street in St. Augustine. It's gone now, an apartment complex rises from sacred ground soaked in the memories of our clan.
Doodlebugs are one of those memories. Nana and Papa's house had a cellar ... something almost unheard of in wet Florida, certainly in coastal Florida it was an oddity. The breezeway into the deep, dark cellar had a sandy floor and this spot was doodlebug heaven. Kid heaven too. The house overhead kept the rain off the sand and provided the dry conditions doodlebugs love.
If you were a grandkid at Papa's, all it took was a twig and a bit of spider web from a dusty corner of the cellar and you were equipped for a "doodlebug fishing trip". (There must be a fly fishing pun in there somewhere, but it eludes me now).
Holding your twig "pole", you dangled your spider web "line" into the sand pit of some hapless doodlebug and tried to get him to bite. We didn't catch that many, but we sure had fun trying.
Here's a close-up of the wee beastie. The traps bring back childhood memories, but the ant lion itself makes me think of poor Chekov in one of the early Star Trek movies. The bad guys (Khan?) put a critter in Chekov's ear to control him. I always thought it resembled the ant lion, except it was a lot bigger.
The sand pit trap of the giant critter in the 2nd ... 3rd ...6th ... damn you Spielberg and your weird Star Wars episode numbering system. Arrrghh. You know the one where Jaba makes Luke walk the plank ... That one. Okay, what I'm trying to say (and failing miserably I might add) is that the pit was probably inspired by doodlebugs. Whew!
Doodlebugs aren't mind controlling parasites of course, we have politicians for that. No, every doodlebug is a baby waiting to transform into an adult so different in form, that it defies belief. Someone else has done a superior job of explaining the doodlebug life cycle, so go here for the details.
Be glad gravity keeps insects small on this planet. Watching some helpless ant (admit it, you've tossed a few into these pits of doom ) trying to climb the slippery slopes as the ant lion flings sprays of tiny talus at it is fascinating. If the ant should make it out, I always find myself cheering for him even though I was the one who tossed him, Jaba style, into the pit. Survival of the pittest and all that.
Those who don't make it out are seized in massive jaws and drained of their body fluids. An especially horrifying end to me, so it's good to be big.