I met my first ant lion
on vacation in Lake Kariba
. Surrounded by much larger fauna
s and baboon
s, these little creatures fascinated me. In adulthood
, ant lions are a type of damselfly
, but their larval
stage is much more compelling.
Ant lions prey on ants and other insects by digging a small pit and concealing themselves at the bottom. When some unfortunate prey happens along the edge of the crater (or when I poked it with a finger) this disturbs a few grains of loose sand and the ant lion kicks up a cloud of sand with its long hind legs like a tiny explosion. If the ant tumbles into the pit it's done for. If it stumbles at the edge, the ant lion will reach up and grab it. My finger was too big to fool the ant lions, but that didn't stop me from having nightmares and daydreams about these crazy critters. Apparently I am not the only one to find them psychologically compelling - ant lions guest star in folklore and myth around the world.