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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

PREY PREFERENCES OF THE PREDATORY LARVA OF THE ANTLION (FAMILY MYRMELEONTIDAE) **

Abstract

Antlions are a group of about 2,000 species of insects in the Family Myrmeleontidae and are known for the fiercely predatory habits of their larvae which dig pits to trap passing ants or other prey. They are found around the world in mainly dry and sandy habitats, although a few of the species are also found in temperate locations such as Europe. Their main food source is ants and other small prey that fall into the antlion pits. The main goal of the project is to determine the prey preferences of antlions. It was hypothesized that antlions prefer eating ants over other food sources.  Both laboratory and field experiments were performed to determine the feeding preferences of antlions.  In the laboratory, the common, pit-constructing antlion, Myrmeleon immaculatus, was used, and in the field, pit-making antlions in the genus Myrmeleon were observed. In the lab experiments, forty antlions that varied in size were exposed ot different prey items, house ants, fire ants, fruit flies, bean beetles, and flour beetles. Data was recorded for (1) time to capture prey, (2) numbers of attempts required to catch prey, and (3) antlion behavior after catpure (fed on prey item, thre prey item out of the pit, or something else). Laboratory experiment data indicate a preference for soft-bodied prey. This experiment was also performed at field sites with 40 antlions. Additional information on prey in the field was provided by yellow sticky traps placed near antion pits and by examining discarded prey carcasses. Preliminary field results also suggest that antlions prefer soft-bodied prey items, such as ants and fruit flies, compared to hard-bodied beetles. Furthermore, it appears that house ants are preffered over fire ants. Field studies of carcasses found near antlion fit indicate a variety of prey items, including milipede. Using data from the laboratory and field experiments, it appears that antlions prefer soft-bodied prey.

Acknowledgements

GGC Dept. of Biology

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