How do adult antlions es­cape their traps?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Q & A - Richard Jones

Antlions are the preda­tory lar­vae of rather flimsy lacewing-type in­sects. They bur­row into loose, dry, sandy soil, ex­ca­vat­ing a con­i­cal pit – the treach­er­ous slope of which, rest­ing at an un­sta­ble an­gle, crum­bles un­der­foot of any insect care­less enough to stray into it. By flick­ing up grains of the sand to dis­ori­en­tate and quite lit­er­ally un­der­mine its prey, the antlion draws the hapless vic­tim down into its for­mi­da­ble jaws. Once fully grown, the adult insect must now scram­ble out of its own pit­fall trap. How­ever, with­out con­stant ac­tive main­te­nance, the slope has now set­tled to a more sta­ble an­gle, a mere dip in the ground, and the adult antlion can emerge el­e­gant and sure-footed.

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