Journal of Ethology

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 265–275 | Cite as

Pitfall vs fence traps in feeding efficiency of antlion larvae

  • Akihiko Jingu
  • Fumio HayashiEmail author


Larvae of pit-building antlions are expected to be more efficient at capturing prey than those of non-pit-builders. To test this prediction, feeding behaviors were compared in the same experimental conditions among pit-building Baliga micans and Myrmeleon bore, and non-pit-building Distoleon contubernalis. The number of prey eaten did not differ between species. D. contubernalis larvae used the walls of the experimental chamber as fence traps to capture prey. In the field, they were also found near edges of natural barriers, such as rocks, stones, tree roots, and plant stems. Artificial pitfall traps captured more arthropods near the edges of fences than farther from them. Larvae of the two pit-building species were located in the central part of the experimental chamber. In their natural habitats, the number of arthropods captured by artificial pitfall traps increased with pit size; thus, larger pits may be more efficient for capturing prey. In conclusion, pit-building and non-pit-building antlion larvae are both efficient hunters; the former hunt efficiently by making larger pitfall traps, and the latter do so by waiting for prey at the edge of the natural fences along which arthropods walk.


Foraging strategy Myrmeleontidae Neuroptera Prey availability Sit-and-wait predator 



We thank Katsuyuki Eguchi and Aya Takahashi for their useful comments on an early version of the manuscript, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. We also thank Kosei Hashimoto, Tomoki Nakagawa, and Yuki Murakami for assisting with fieldwork.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not report on any study with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

10164_2018_559_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (280 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (JPEG 280 kb)
10164_2018_559_MOESM2_ESM.jpg (379 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (JPEG 378 kb)
10164_2018_559_MOESM3_ESM.xlsx (45 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (XLSX 44 kb)


  1. Ábrahám L (2003) Temperature tolerance and predatory strategy of pit-building ant-lion larvae (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae). Acta Phytopathol Entomol Hung 38:167–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen GR, Croft DB (1985) Soil particle size and the pit morphology of the Australian ant-lions Myrmeleon diminutus and M. pictifrons (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae). Aust J Zool 33:863–874CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Antoł A, Rojek W, Miler K, Czarnoleski M (2018) Thermal dependence of trap building in predatory antlion larvae (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae). J Ethol 36:199–203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baba K (1953) The biology of antlions. Essa Entomological Association, Niigata (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  5. Baba K, Nagatomi A, Nagatomi H, Evenhuis NL (1987) Redescription of Villa myrmelenostena (Insecta, Diptera, Bombyliidae), a parasitoid of ant lion in Japan. Zool Sci 4:903–911Google Scholar
  6. Badano D, Aspöck U, Aspöck H, Cerretti P (2017) Phylogeny of Myrmeleontiformia based on larval morphology (Neuropterida: Neuroptera). Syst Entomol 42:94–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barkae ED, Scharf I, Abramsky Z, Ovadia O (2012) Jack of all trades, master of all: a positive association between habitat niche breadth and foraging performance in pit-building antlion larvae. PLoS One 7:e33506CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barkae ED, Scharf I, Ovadia O (2017) Differential effects of variance in prey arrival on foraging success and growth rate of two pit-building antlion species. J Zool 303:254–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown MB, Forsythe AB (1974) The small sample behavior of some statistics which test the equality of several means. Technometrics 16:129–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cain ML (1987) Prey capture behavior and diel movement of Brachynemurus (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) antlion larvae in south central Florida. Florida Entomol 70:397–400CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Creed RP Jr, Miller JR (1990) Interpreting animal wall-following behavior. Experientia 46:758–761CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crowley PH, Linton MC (1999) Antlion foraging: tracking prey across space and time. Ecology 80:2271–2282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Devetak D (2014) Sand-borne vibrations in prey detection and orientation of antlions. In: Cocroft RB, Gogala M, Hill PSM, Wessel A (eds) Studying vibrational communication. Animal signals and communication, vol 3. Springer, Heidelberg, pp 319–330Google Scholar
  14. Devetak D, Arnett AE (2015) Preference of antlion and wormlion larvae (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae; Diptera: Vermileonidae) for substrates according to substrate particle sizes. Eur J Entomol 112:500–509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Devetak D, Mencinger-Vračko B, Devetak M, Marhl M, Špernjak A (2007) Sand as a medium for transmission of vibratory signals of prey in antlions Euroleon nostras (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae). Physiol Entomol 32:68–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Devetak D, Lipovšek S, Pabst M-A (2010) Larval morphology of the antlion Neuroleon microstenus (McLachlan, 1898) (Neuroptera, Myrmeleontidae), with notes on larval biology. Zootaxa 2428:55–63Google Scholar
  17. Devetak D, Novak T, Janžekovič F (2012) Effect of substrate density on behaviour of antlion larvae (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae). Acta Oecologica 43:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Devetak D, Klokočovnik V, Lipovšek S, Bock E, Leitinger G (2013) Larval morphology of the antlion Myrmecaelurus trigrammus (Pallas, 1771) (Neuroptera, Myrmeleontidae), with notes on larval biology. Zootaxa 3641:491–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Elimelech E, Pinshow B (2008) Variation in food availability influences prey-capture method in antlion larvae. Ecol Entomol 33:652–662CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ezawa A, Tsurusaki N (2015) Distribution of coastal species of antlions (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) in Tottori Prefecture. Nat Hist Res San’in 11:45–53 (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  21. Fertin A, Casas J (2006) Efficiency of antlion trap construction. J Exp Biol 209:3510–3515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fertin A, Casas J (2007) Orientation towards prey in antlions: efficient use of wave propagation in sand. J Exp Biol 210:3337–3343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Furunishi S, Masaki S (1981) Photoperiodic response of the univoltine ant-lion Myrmeleon formicarius (Neuroptera, Myrmeleontidae). Kontyu 49:653–667Google Scholar
  24. Furunishi S, Masaki S (1982) Seasonal life cycle in two species of ant-lion (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae). Jpn J Ecol 32:7–13Google Scholar
  25. Furunishi S, Masaki S (1983) Photoperiodic control of development in the ant-lion Hagenomyia micans (Neuroptera, Myrmeleontidae). Entomol Generalis 9:51–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gatti GM, Farji-Brener AG (2002) Low density of ant lion larva (Myrmeleon crudelis) in ant–acacia clearings: high predation risk or inadequate substrate? Biotropica 34:458–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Griffiths D (1980) The feeding biology of ant-lion larvae: prey capture, handling and utilization. J Anim Ecol 49:99–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Griffiths D (1982) Tests of alternative models of prey consumption by predators, using ant-lion larvae. J Anim Ecol 52:363–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Griffiths D (1985) Phenology and larval-adult size relations in the ant-lion Macroleon quinquemaculatus. J Anim Ecol 54:573–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Griffiths D (1986) Pit construction by ant-lion larvae: a cost-benefit analysis. J Anim Ecol 55:39–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Griffiths D (1991) Intraspecific competition in larvae of the ant-lion Morter sp. and interspecific interactions with Macroleon quinquemaculatus. Ecol Entomol 16:193–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hauber ME (1999) Variation in pit size of antlion Myrmeleon carolinus larvae: the importance of pit construction. Physiol Entomol 24:37–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hayashi M (2013) Antlions (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) of Shimane and west Tottori Prefectures, Japan. Bull Hoshizaki Green Found 16:189–205 (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  34. Heinrich B, Heinrich MJ (1984) The pit-trapping foraging strategy of the ant lion, Myrmeleon immaculatus DeGeer (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 14:151–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Humeau A, Rougé J, Casas J (2015) Optimal range of prey size for antlions. Ecol Entomol 40:776–781CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Klokočovnik V, Devetak D (2014) Pit-builder vs non-pit-builder: advantage of trap building strategy in antlion larvae does not mean greater behaviour diversity. Behaviour 151:653–668CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kuszewska K, Miler K, Filipiak M, Woyciechowski M (2016) Sedentary antlion larvae (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) use vibrational cues to modify their foraging strategies. Anim Cognit 19:1037–1041CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lima TN, Silva DCR (2017) Effect of energetic cost to maintain the trap for Myrmeleon brasiliensis (Neuroptera, Myrmeleontidae) in its development and adult size. Braz J Biol 77:38–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Loria R, Scharf I, Subach A, Ovadia O (2008) The interplay between foraging mode, habitat structure, and predator presence in antlions. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 62:1185–1192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lucas JR (1982) The biophysics of pit construction by antlion larvae (Myrmeleon, Neuroptera). Anim Behav 30:651–652CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lucas JR (1985) Metabolic rates and pit-construction costs of two antlion species. J Anim Ecol 54:295–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Matsura T (1986) The feeding ecology of the pit-making ant lion larva, Myrmeleon bore: feeding rate and species composition of prey in a habitat. Ecol Res 1:15–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Matsura T (1987) An experimental study on the foraging behavior of a pit-building antlion larva, Myrmeleon bore. Res Popul Ecol 29:17–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Matsura T, Murao T (1994) Comparative study on the behavioral response to starvation in three species of antlion larvae (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae). J Insect Behav 7:873–884CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Matsura T, Takano H (1989) Pit-relocation of antlion larvae in relation to their density. Res Popul Ecol 31:225–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Matsura T, Satomi T, Fujiharu K (1991) Control of the life cycle in a univoltine antlion, Myrmeleon bore (Neuroptera). Jpn J Entomol 59:275–287Google Scholar
  47. Matsura T, Ohno H, Sakamoto M (1998) Rate of parasitism of antlion larvae, Myrmeleon bore (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) by the bee fly, Villa myrmeleonostena (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Entomol Sci 1:321–325Google Scholar
  48. Matsura T, Arahori Y, Higashi M, Ogasawara Y (2001) Ecological characteristics of oviposition and eggs in the antlions living in seaside dunes: tolerance to high temperature (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae). Entomol Sci 4:17–23Google Scholar
  49. Matsura T, Yamaga Y, Itoh M (2005) Substrate selection for pit making and oviposition in an antlion, Myrmeleon bore Tjeder, in terms of sand particle size. Entomol Sci 8:347–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Miler K, Yahya BE, Czarnoleski M (2018) Different predation efficiencies of trap-building larvae of sympatric antlions and wormlions from the rainforest of Borneo. Ecol Entomol 43:255–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Morisita M (1952) Habitat selection and evaluation of environment: an experimental study on the density of ant-lion larvae. Physiol Ecol Jpn 5:1–16 (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  52. Morisita M (1959) Measuring of the dispersion of individuals and analysis of the distributional pattern. Mem Fac Sci Kyushu Univ Ser 2:215–235Google Scholar
  53. Patt JM, Pfannenstiel RS (2009) Characterization of restricted area searching behavior following consumption of prey and non-prey food in a cursorial spider, Hibana futilis. Entomol Exp Appl 132:13–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Ruxton GD, Hansell MH (2009) Why are pitfall traps so rare in the natural world? Evol Ecol 23:181–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Scharf I, Ovadia O (2006) Factors influencing site abandonment and site selection in a sit-and-wait predator: a review of pit-building antlion larvae. J Insect Behav 19:197–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Scharf I, Subach A, Ovadia O (2008) Foraging behaviour and habitat selection in pit-building antlion larvae in constant light or dark conditions. Anim Behav 76:2049–2057CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Scharf I, Golan B, Ovadia O (2009) The effect of sand depth, feeding regime, density, and body mass on the foraging behaviour of a pit-building antlion. Ecol Entomol 34:26–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Scharf I, Lubin Y, Ovadia O (2011) Foraging decisions and behavioural flexibility in trap-building predators: a review. Biol Rev 86:626–639CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sekimoto S (2014) Review of Japanese Myrmeleontidae (Neuroptera). Insecta Matsumurana New Ser 70:1–87Google Scholar
  60. Simon D (1985) Observations on Nophis teillardi Navas (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae), with description of the larva. Isr J Entomol 19:171–179Google Scholar
  61. Tsao Y-J, Okuyama T (2012) Foraging strategy switching in an antlion larva. Behav Process 91:1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tsao Y-J, Okuyama T (2013) Evolutionarily stable relocation strategy in an antlion larva. J Insect Behav 26:563–576CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Tsurusaki N, Tanaka Y, Morimoto T, Ishida H, Yanada K (2012) Records of faunal survey of insects in Tottori Sand Dunes in 2010 and distribution of some wasps of Aculeata in the sand dune area. Nat Hist Res San’in 7:25–30 (in Japanese) Google Scholar
  64. Uchôa MA, Missirian GLB (2014) Myrmeleon brasiliensis (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) in the south Pantanal, Brazil. Fla Entomol 97:313–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Van Zyl A, Van der Linde TCD, Van der Westhuizen MC (1996) Ecological aspects of pitbuilding and non-pitbuilding antlions (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) in the Kalahari. Afr Entomol 4:143–152Google Scholar
  66. Van Zyl A, Van der Linde TCK, Grimbeek RJ (1997) Metabolic rates of pitbuilding and non-pitbuilding antlion larvae (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) from southern Africa. J Arid Environ 37:355–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyTokyo Metropolitan UniversityHachiojiJapan

Personalised recommendations