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Desert Diary



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Have you ever noticed funnel-shaped holes in the sand? These are the homes of antlion larvae. Adult antlions are beautiful, flying insects that look a little like small dragonflies. Their young, however, can look scary.

Young antlions build the sandy funnels to catch ants; the antlions are buried at the bottom waiting for dinner! If an ant falls into the trap, the antlion begins throwing sand grains, knocking the ant to the bottom of the funnel. There, it grabs the ant with its fierce jaws! If you want to see an antlion at work, find one of its traps, and drop an ant in!

The producers of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan enlarged larval antlions for the film, then used them as frightening, dangerous animals from a far away planet. Apparently, Hollywood couldn't find something scarier looking than what nature already created! But although young antlions look scary, they are no threat to people. pen and ink In fact, they are an important part of our Chihuahuan Desert ecosystem.


Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Kodi R. Jeffery, former staff member, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio, University of Texas at El Paso.


An adult antlion. Photograph by A.H. Harris.



Borror, D. J., and R. E. White. A Field Guide to the Insects, America North of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 404 pp.

Web Resources

The Antlion Pit. A wide variety of topics concerning antlions.