Antlion Face by Joe Milone. Originally collected by Samantha Gallagher in St. Mary's County, Maryland 

Kelly’s Field Notes

Common Name: Antlions, Doodlebugs

Order: Neuroptera

Family: Myrmeleontidae (myrm = ant, leon = lion) - the largest family in Order Neuroptera

Genera: There are 21 genera of antlion!

Species of Note Near You (There are around 2,000 species of antlion!):


Antlion adults have long slender bodies similar to damselflies, with long thick antennae and mouthparts made to collect nectar and pollen. They vary in length but can be as small as 2 cm (0.8 in) or reach 15 cm (6 in). Adults are sometimes called antlion lacewings. You’ll find them flying just after dark. They are not strong fliers so they tend to flutter. The largest species, Acanthaclisis occitanica, has an 11 cm (4.3 in) wingspan!

Antlion larvae are sometimes called “doodlebugs,” because of the ripples they leave in the sand. The larvae are squatty, short-limbed, and sort of round, this is called a fusiform body. They are mostly heads and jaws! Many build pits in the sand to catch prey, but some instead ambush from leaf litter or crevices in trees. One species in Japan, Dendroleon jezoensis, hangs out on the surface of rocks, coated in lichen. The larva is covered in forward facing bristles which help keep it anchored in the sand while pulling prey down. Antlion larvae lack an anus! They store their waste, eventually using some of it to create a pupal cocoon and the rest gets expelled as a meconium (a large singular poop) at the end of its pupal stage.

Life Cycle: 

Mating can take up to two hours, where the male will hang upside down, suspended from his genitals. Females lay their eggs directly in sandy soil or leaf litter. She lays around 20 eggs at a time. She may mate again, immediately after laying. Because they lay eggs near where they emerged, females are sometimes eaten by younger relatives when they land to oviposit (lay eggs).

 Larvae are voracious eaters! They will eat whatever they can grab, though some say their common name is due to their catching many ants in their traps. Antlion larvae inject their prey with venom and enzymes that liquify the prey’s insides, much like a spider. This is important because they cannot chew. It can take 9 months to 2 years for a larva to reach adulthood, depending on species and climate. Between larvae and adult stages, they will sit for about two weeks as pupae. Adults live from 20 to 25 days, but some have lived up to 45 days.

Super Powers:


“Antlion.” Wikipedia, 24 Mar. 2021,

‌Fisher, Martin. "Antlion life cycles in Nigeria." Journal of tropical ecology 5.2 (1989): 247-250.

Miller, Robert B., and Lionel A. Stange. “An Antlion, Glenurus Gratus (Say) (Insecta: Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae).” University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Outreach MENU,

Sharma, Narayan. "A Review on Chemical Components and Therapeutic Uses of Ant Lion (Myrmelon Sp)." Universal Journal of Pharmaceutical Research 2.6 (2018): 80-82.

Swanson, M. (n.d.). Zoological History. The Antlion Pit: A Doodlebug Anthology. 

Van Zyl, A., Van der Linde, TC de K. & Van der Westhuizen, M. C. "Ecological aspects of pitbuilding and non-pitbuilding antlions (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) in the Kalahari." African entomology 4.2 (1996): 143-152.

Yasserri, A.M. "Life cycle and reproductive behaviour of the antlion Euroleon nostras (Geoffroy in Fourcroy, 1785) in northern Germany (Insecta: Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae)." Pure and Applied Research in Neuropterology. Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium on Neuropterology. 1996.

Zheng, Yuchen, et al. "Unveiling the evolutionary history of a puzzling antlion genus Gatzara Navás (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae: Dendroleontinae) based on systematic revision, molecular phylogenetics, and biogeographic inference." Insect Systematics and Diversity 6.3 (2022): 4.