(ant lions), a family of insects of the order Neuroptera. The body length measures 2–7.5 cm, and the wingspan, 2–17 cm. There are two pairs of transparent wings, which are covered by a dense network of veins. When the insect is not in flight, the wings close like a roof over its back. The Myrmeleonidae fly slowly and are predators.
The larvae are active predators. Some, for example larvae of the genus Palpares, wait in ambush for their prey on the surface of the soil; others, such as those of the genus Myrmeleon, burrow into dry sand at the bottom of funnel-shaped pits and leave only their long, sickle-shaped jaws exposed. When the larva is approached by a small insect, such as an ant, the larva jerks its head, throwing a few grains of sand at the ant. The sand forces the ant to roll to the bottom of the funnel, where the larva captures it.
Digestion in the Myrmeleonidae larvae is extraenteric: food is absorbed after it has been liquefied by the larva’s own enzymes that were injected in the body of the prey through the ducts of the sickle-shaped jaws. Development of the larva lasts from one to three years, with growth of the free pupa occurring in a silky cocoon constructed in the sand. There are more than 1,200 species, belonging to 300 genera. They are distributed mainly in the tropics. In the USSR there are about 15 species.
REFERENCEZhizn’ zhivotnykh, vol. 3. Moscow, 1969.
M. S. GILIAROV