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An antlion ate my ice cream!

Antlion adult (Acanthaclisis baetica) close up of head and thorax
Antlion adult (Acanthaclisis baetica) close up of head and thorax

Well not really, but it’s a catchy title!  Antlions live in sandy places like beaches, and eat ants and other insects which have the misfortune to slip and fall into their steep-sided sand pits.  They might have a nibble at an ice cream!  The adults are more civilised and feed on pollen or nectar.  They are however, not easy to identify to species.  In the UK we only have one species (Euroleon nostras), and it’s only found in one location (in Suffolk) so that would not be too difficult.  But I found this one is Spain, where there are at least 20 species.  Luckily we live in the digital age and I managed to find a great blog on antlions on the Iberianature Forum website (1) listing all the Spanish species (and including links to photographs).  Thank-you Isidro, whoever you are (you must be a real expert), it enabled me to identify this species I found in Galicia, as Acanthaclisis baetica.  I would never have done so otherwise.  It’s only a photo ID, but there are no other species which look remotely like it, so I feel fairly confident about it.  And of course, we can always Google it on Google Images, for confirmation.  What an age we live in.  All of this was not even possible 10 years ago; Linnaeus would turn in his grave!  This was one that he did not manage to get to; Rambur, named it 1842.

Antlion adult (Acanthaclisis baetica)
Antlion adult (Acanthaclisis baetica)

This adult was resting on a wooden structure on Morouzos beach, next to Ria de Ortigueira, in Galicia, NW Spain.  It did not move or show much sign of life, but I assume it was alive.  It was in the same position when I walked past it again and the end of my walk. We should perhaps give it is local name, formiga león (Galician), or hormiga león (in Spanish).

 Antlion adult (Acanthaclisis baetica)

Antlion adult (Acanthaclisis baetica)



Incidentally, the other great fact about antlions (I remember learning this as a student, much to my juvenile glee at the time!) is that the larvae have no anus!

rcannon992 View All

I am a retired entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

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