GREETINGS FROM SOUTH AFRICA
Hello there to all my readers!
Some of you might have heard this story from me before.
If you have, please accept my apologies.
I thought it interesting enough to repeat once more...
I grew up during the 1960's on a small farm in rural South Africa. The narrow farm road leading up to our old farmhouse was littered with natural sandpits, worn down by the tyres of busy farm vehicles.
That sand was my domain and I played in it for hours, experimenting with varieties of interesting patterns and covering myself in its glorious warmth . So you can imagine when one day, to my horror, I found MY sand to be patterned with small conical depressions. My reaction was something like the story of the "Three Bears" although this time I was asking,
"Who's been playing in MY sand?!"
As a young farm child I usually unravelled the answers to my innocent questions by simply observing the world around me. Sooner or later they would be answered by nature's natural course.
As the sun rose that morning so too did the ants. They emerged from underground cavities to go about their daily business and invade my sandpit. These particular ants were well known to me. They were small and brown and did not bite. I left them alone but watched what they were up to.
As I was watching an ant fell into one of the conical holes. The ant started to struggle but these holes had obviously been carefully crafted. Soon a spray of fine granules was tossed into the air out of the tiny pit. The ant struggled in the unstable sand. I looked on as it was gradually dragged down towards a waiting set of small pinchers. Before I could blink, something had it. The pinchers had taken a firm grip of the ant and they both disappeared into the sandy grave.
I was 6 years old at the time and sat there - riveted in fascination.
This was my early introduction to the world of the ANTLION.
Over the next couple of weeks, I managed to catch some of those antlions. The trick, I eventually learned, was to use a thin piece of grass and quietly tickle the sides of their conicle depressions. It would disturb the sand and prompt the ANTLION to action. Soon it would be frantically throwing sand up from its pit. As this was happening, I would reach in and as gently as possible grab at the sand. If I was lucky, I would eventually find the little creature but I had to carefully sift the sand through my fingers.
I then placed the tiny captive in a shoe box filled with sand and would watch, delightedly, as it dug its way underneath the soil. I spent hours catching ants and delivering them into the small death traps of the ANTLION.
My glee however didn't last long. After a few weeks the ANTLIONS and their beautifully crafted holes simply disappeared. For years I was baffled about their disappearance. It was only much later in my life, in the age of encyclopedias, that I discovered the secret of the ANTLION...
The ANTLION, often known as the 'Doodlebug' is resident to temperate climates all around the world. They are creatures in transition since they are, in fact, the pupa of the 'lacewing' (a form of dragonfly).
During their 'ANTLION' stage, they feed primarily on ants, drawing these insects into their deathtraps and then pulling them underground to feed on their juices. These carnivores are quite beautiful with tiny furry bodies and small, neat pinchers.
Once the pupa stage is complete, a grand metamorphosis takes place as they develop into the pretty
DRAGONFLY or LACEWING.