Friday, August 24, 2007

Cool creature

This evening our local weatherman gave this August's statistics. Five days above 100 degrees, and an average monthly temperature 10 degrees above normal, 94. Yes, it's been hot.
And with the heat, my activities have been restricted to whatever can be accomplished indoors, and with minimal heat generation and energy expenditure. After another sandwich dinner tonight, and with blinds drawn, we commented on how the extreme heat has reminded us of the other extreme, a blizzard. Schools were even closed today, as conditions become unsafe.


But, carrying on, unaffected by the discomfort the rest of the natural world seems to be displaying, the ant lions have taken up residence in their "usual" spot on the ramp to the barn.
Apparently, they prefer to be protected like this, with the eaves shielding the dirt from rain and harsh sun. It remains dry and loose year-round--the perfect building material for their pits. Each depressed ridge in the concrete ramp holds just enough dirt for them to doodle around. Many conical pits, with an ant lion buried at the center of each, are excavated in each ridge.
Each year, I know this is where I'll find them, fierce-looking mandibles ready for unwary dinner to tumble in.
Sometimes, I feed them a treat--and watch their dirt-throwing behavior as they attempt to snare their prey.
And sometimes I unearth one, just to meet the creature that builds with such skill, such a deadly trap for an ant.



Now, isn't he cool??

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13 comments:

Cathy said...

Nina! That is spectacular! I've only ever seen a little commotion in a few of these pits - never the REAL DEAL. Cool? OK. Creepy - big time! That photo is terrific. I mean look at those mandibles. (Not sure about the anatomy, there )

nina said...

Yeah, he's the inspiration for a horror movie, isn't he?
I think he pierces prey with mandible, injects "venom",...much as others do.
The "lion" is the nymph of a seldom seen adult form, related to lacewings.
I've known about them since I was a child, but never really investigated the life cycle, digging behavior until now--he's quite cool.

Rebecca Clayton said...

I see some adults around here every summer, but I haven't found the nymphs' hangout. They're wonderful!

Cathy said...

OK. Now that is really interesting. I'm just starting insect forays and this life stages business is beyond fascinating. I'm going to google him for his adult form. Thanks.

Cathy said...

Oh! I just found your link to Ant Lions. Alright!

Larry said...

Ant Lion-That is cool! I cpould imagine one of these magnified to make a 1950's style sci-fi.

nina said...

Probably not a good creature to think about while falling asleep?

Mary said...

I wouldn't say "Cool", Nina :o) This is the first time I've seen one. I'd jump back if I saw something that ugly around my house. Thanks for the introduction!

RuthieJ said...

Nina, that's a creepy looking little insect, but if it eats ants, then it must be good. I think I need some of these guys around my place, but have never seen anything like it.

cestoady said...

We have these facinating creatures in the dusty sand under the eaves where they are protected from the rain that would destroy their funnel traps and turn the ant lions into pussy cats.

Jennifer said...

Whoa. That is one cool critter. I have heard the term "ant lion" before... but until now, I didn't know what one was. Thanks!

Susan Gets Native said...

I discovered an adult this summer and was blown away when I realized what they start out as.
They are smart little uglies...they make their pits right where the ants come in the house...so they are welcome to set up housekeeping anytime!

dguzman said...

Wow, I haven't seen a little guy since I was a kid! And I've never seen them around our house in PA, which is too bad because we have these big black ants that hang around in the peonies. They're annoying!