Antlions are tiny insects that dig small, cone-shaped pits in sandy soil. When an ant bumbles into an antlion’s pit, sliding sand keeps the ant from climbing out. The antlion waits at the bottom, ready to snare the unlucky insect for supper. To see this in action, keep an antlion as a house guest.
Fill a bowl that’s at least 5 inches wide and 4 inches deep with 3 inches of sand. If you don’t have sand, table sugar works fine.
Search loose, sandy soil in flower beds or beside houses for antlion pits. When you find one, use a spoon to scoop out the entire pit. Sift the soil through a strainer and look closely — antlions are easy to mistake for a clump of sand. Once you’ve found an antlion, put it in the bowl you prepared.
Leave the antlion alone for a bit so it can build a new pit. To do this, the antlion will walk backwards in smaller and smaller circles, using its tail and head to flick sand out of the pit.
Feed the antlion two ants each day. Drop one ant at a time into the bowl and watch what happens. Sand at the bottom of the pit will stir. Soon the antlion’s head may pop out. If the ant tries to climb away, the antlion might flick sand to knock the ant back down.
Antlions help control ant numbers in the wild, which is helpful to people. So, after the antlion has spent a few days as your guest, put it back where you found it.
Nichole LeClair Terrill