An Existential Kiplinger Tale
If you wanted to pinpoint something in nature to undermine the theory of evolution, I’d suggest the Doodlebug, one improbable piece of creation. As a biologist firmly marinated in evolution, I still scratch my head over how an insect larva could evolve the practice of digging a death pit, sitting in the bottom waiting for ants to tumble in, and then flinging sand on the victims to knock them down into the fatal funnel I mean come on now, flinging sand!? I’d like to see the incremental series of evolutionary steps leading to that! (Do not get me wrong, it happened, and the fact is, today’s insects belong to the large Lacewing Family, with a fierce menagerie of predatory larvae.)
Doodlebugs owe their old-fashioned name to their squiggly wiggle lines in the sand. They are be better known these days as ant lions, such an apt name.
We did not want to dig one up to its peril, so it was more lion-friendly to provide a link so you can view the hideous microbeast extracted from its conical pit. CLICK (And no, we did not plop an ant into a lion’s den. All events today were purely observational.) Those jabberwock jaws chomp with injection needles on the inner surfaces to shoot poison into the prey, and to suck out its vital juices.
Everyone in a warm dry place has seen the little cones of uncertainty, depending on the species, say an inch deep and 2 inches in diameter in dry sand, often but not necessarily under an overhang. Surprisingly, the species are quite varied, over 20 in Florida and vastly more globally.
After lurking in a hellhole for months the larvae form spherical cocoons to soon emerge as gorgeous lace-winged adults whose job is to mate and lay eggs in a brief multi-week sexcapades. They hook up on trees, with pheromones implicated as their match.com. The adults are nocturnal and go to light, perhaps drawn collectively to translucent leaves in the gloaming or to moonbeam love beacons? The light-attraction is key to human-ant lion encounters, as they flutter onto screens blocking access to the wonderful lights just beyond.
What a pity we don’t sit on screen porches any longer. We miss a lot of good bugs and all the nocturnal froggie and katydid audio, not to mention evening porch conversation with trains in the distance. This summer camping in Michigan, the lightning bugs were magical deja vu glimmers of summers before Comcast.
You can now watch the lion-ant battle to the finish John and I witnessed today in Kiplinger. DOODLE HERE for the action.