The pit-trapping foraging strategy of the ant lion, Myrmeleon immaculatus DeGeer (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae)

Research paper by Bernd Heinrich, Margaret J. E. Heinrich

Indexed on: 01 Feb '84Published on: 01 Feb '84Published in: Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology


Larvae of Myrmeleon immaculatus in large pits captured both large and samll prey, while larvae in small pits captured only the small prey. Larvae in small pits did not respond to large ants, although they always responded by sand-flinging to small ants. Larvae in medium-sized pits often captured large ants only after prolonged and vigorous sand-flipping. Larvae in large pits usually captured large ants with relatively little sand-flipping. Pit enlargement and pit relocation in the laboratory were not significantly correlated with reduction of rations in the first 3 weeks after a pit was built. However, after a month without food, larvae on the average moved once every 10 days, built successively smaller pits, and moved longer distances before building a new pit. In the field pits were dug primarily in response to microclimatological factors and possibly edge-effects. The presence or absence of suitable prey at a site, per se, had no effect on whether or not a larva would dig a pit there. We conclude that these sit-and-wait predators have a relatively large repertoire of behavior that enhances their foraging success, and we contrast it with previously made optimal foraging models relating to pit locations, pit relocations, pit size and ant lion responses.