Ant Lion aka Doodle Bug
This little creature captured and held my attention for many hours during my pre-teen years. I had no siblings to play with, neighbor kids were quite a bit older than me, my toy box had only one bought toy so I had to find things to do to occupy my time. I don’t ever remember being bored. My wants were like those of every other kid but in the post-depression days of the late 1930’s and early 40’s money was scarce. Food clothing and shelter had first dibs on what was available. Toys were way down at the bottom of the list.
Our house was wood frame with board and batten siding. It sat on concrete and wood blocks. The ground sloped where our house sat so on the west end the floor joist were about 18 inches off the ground and on the east end about three feet-just high enough for a little kid to get under and play. There was no skirting around the house so in the summer it was always shady, dry and cool. Here the dogs camped out as well as the cats and yours truly in his personal sand box. The dirt beneath the house had a layer of the black soil that had turned to powder, perfect for all sorts of imaginary construction work.
It was also the home of the Doodle Bug!
In the fine powder beneath the house were these little depressions. They were actually traps that the doodle bug made as well as his home. It stayed near the bottom beneath the powder. When an ant or some other small creature came along and got too close to the edge it would fall in. When it tried to climb out the sides were too steep and the powder gave way trapping it. This activity alerted the doodle bug that food was in the hole.
This vicious looking critter is the Doodle Bug aka Ant Lion. It is blind (no eyes) and creates its trap (home) and captures its prey by feeling the vibrations in the soil. Once the prey is in the mandibles the doodle bug disappears beneath the dirt and enjoys its meal.
The doodle bug creates its trap by pushing itself backwards under the soil and flipping the loose soil away with its . It goes in a circle with a push back, then head flip until the trap is made. Takes about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Then it is a waiting game for dinner to come along. They don’t like it if other doodle bugs intrude and the fight is on if one does.
Compared to a dime these creatures are not very big as you can see in the photo.
The doodle bug is actually the larva stage of the flying insect in this photo. It commonly called a “lacewing” and resembles a dragonfly. The lacewing is seldom seen since they are active late in the evening when they feed on pollen and nectar. After mating the female will stick its long abdomen into the powdery soil or sand and lays eggs. The eggs hatch into the doodle bug. After a while the doodle bug spins a cocoon around itself with fine thread and sand particles. A month later the adult lacewing emerges from the cocoon, makes its way to the surface and the cycle begins again.
Interesting fact: The doodle bug does not have an anus. It retains all of its metabolic waste in its body and then disposed it in the cocoon when it morphs into the lace wing.
The doodle bug is an interesting creature. I spent many an afternoon trying to fool one into thinking that a foreign object I put in his trap was an ant. It never would take the bait. I would get one out of his hole an put it on top of the loose soil and watch as he built a new trap. I also placed one in an occupied trap and watched the fun begin. The intruder usually made it out of the hole to safety. When something like a pebble or piece grass about the size of an ant was dropped in the trap the doodle bug would ignore it. After a while he would approach it and kick it out of his trap.
Another interesting creature that was in abundance under the house was the pill bug. They liked to hide under something such as a rock or leaves. When they felt threatened their segmented shells allowed them to roll into a ball protecting their soft undersides.