Monday, September 21, 2009

Pet Bugs: The Ant Lion

This is an ant lion. An ant lion is the larva of the ant lion lacewing. It lives in sandy places, where it digs a pit, and hides under the sand at the bottom of the pit, waiting for an ant to slide down. When the ant lion feels an ant struggling in the pit, it bumps the sand at the bottom, making little earthquakes. If the ant doesn't hurry up and climb out, the venomous pincers of the ant lion will grab the ant and pull it under.

It is safe for you to touch the ant lion. Just handle it carefully because it is a delicate little creature. It is fun to locate the pits of the ant lion in dry, sandy places, usually around anthills. You can catch an ant and bring the ant lion some dinner. Or you can gently, gently catch the ant lion and have a pet for a day.

First collect about four inches of some nice, dry sand in a flat plastic bowl. It the sides are see-through, you may be able to watch the ant lion if he is digging on the sides.

Put an ant into an ant lion pit to figure out where the ant lion is located. Gently scoop him up. You can use a plastic spoon. Sift the ant lion into his new house. You don't want to bury him in the sand. You can pick him up and have a close look if you want. He might be scared and play dead.

Now let him go into the bowl and put the bowl someplace where your baby brother or sister won't disturb it. You want to keep the bowl very still so that the ant lion will adjust and make a beautiful pit.

You must wait very patiently if you want to watch an ant lion dig a pit. There are five ant lions in this boy's bowl. If you look carefully you can see one of the pits in the sunshine on the right-hand side of the bowl. When he put some ants into the bowl, there were many little earthquakes going on as the ant lions hunted for their dinners. Once your ant lion has made a pit, try not to bump into the bowl. The ant lion's pit might collapse on him.

Don't keep your ant lion for more than about a day. After that it is time to release him to the wild where he can find his own food. Take the ant lion back to where you found him. Look at the ant lion on the left. He is back in his habitat and is digging down into the sand, backwards.

You can learn all about what kind of bugs make good pets by reading Sally Kneidel's book, "Pet Bugs: A Kid's Guide to Catching and Keeping Touchable Insects."


Ravenhill said...

What a great post! Thank you so much for the tip on what sounds like a wonderful book! My children certainly enjoy the little critters outdoors too!

Beth said...

Hi, Emily! We love some bugs. My daughter used to collect and play with stick insects. Have fun finding bugs to play with!

Kelly said...

Hi Beth.
It warmed my heart reading your post. I just love ant lions. They are fascinating. When I was a child we used to dig them out of their traps using a thin stick twirling around and around gently, then set them free again. It was a delight to introduce our children to these when we last went back for a visit. Fascinating little bugs! Thank you!

Beth said...

Thanks, Kelly!!! They are so interesting, aren't they?

The Magic Onions said...

HI Beth,
I just love this post too. My mom is staying with me till the end of the month and I just had to call her and show her your antlions... we used to spend hours trying to catch them... your post made us take a wonderful trip down memory lane. She browsed through your blog and remarked how you do all the things we used to do when we were kids. It's wonderful!
I love Friday's Nature Table too... seeing everyones posts gives us so much inspiration to get out there and enjoy all Mother Nature has to offer.
Thank you for participating.
Blessings and magic.

5 orange potatoes said...

I am not familiar with ant lions. What fascinating little creatures!


Beth said...

Hi, Magic Onions! I'm glad you enjoyed reading about ant lions. It sounds like you had a wonderful childhood. No wonder you are such a fun mother yourself. Beth

Beth said...

Hi, Lisa,

Thank you for visiting! You helped me discover your blog today! Beth

Plethora of pleasant thoughts said...

ant lions remind me of a time of my childhood. its sad that nowadays the changing modern lifestyle's robbing younger generation of such little funs and wonders