Friday, January 9, 2009

Antlion snares your attention!

Smaller, shallow, round fine sand pits with dug sand heaped around are seen at spring and summer, here in India. As kids we used to drive ants into these pits and watch them being dragged down into the sand from the pits’ bottom! Is there some ‘monster’ inside the sand? No, no. It is our cowardly lurking lion – the Ant lion larva or Doodle bug (Myrmeleonidae, ‘Kunnaan’ in Tamil)! But it is cunningly trapping the ants that happen to step into these pits. These ants slide down the slope of the pit in loose fine sand to its bottom where our antlion grabs them sucks their juice and throws off their carcasses out of the pit! We used to fish out this ‘lion’ by simply inserting down into the bottom of the pit a thin stick, and taking out the stick when it grips it! These antlions are the larvae of the flying insect, Antlion lacewings (or Antlion, simply). The female of it lays an egg into the sand that hatches into the larva. This larva turns into a puba that develops in a cocoon of sand, deep down inside the sand, to fly out as adult fly when fully matured.

We sang a song as children over a sand pit of the antlion thus: “Kunnaan, Kunnaan, Kurr Kurr” - in Tamil! It is a wonder lion lurking inside its own snare itself!

Wonder in wonder: As I just finished writing this post an Antlion lacewings flew down into the room in reality! You see here its picture!

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