ant lion


variants or antlion
plural ant lions or antlions
: any of various neuropterous insects (as of the genus Myrmeleon) having long-jawed larvae that feed on insects (such as ants) and including some that dig conical pits to capture prey

Illustration of ant lion

Illustration of ant lion
  • 1 larva
  • 2 adult

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How Would You Describe a Ant Lion?

An insect known for its aggressive capture of prey during its larval stage is the ant lion. The larva digs a funnel-shaped sandy pit by using its oval, bristled abdomen, then buries itself in the pit with only its powerful jaws uncovered. Any small insect that ventures over the pit’s edge slips to the bottom and is seized by the ant lion, which sucks the contents of its victim and throws out the empty skin. The adult ant lion does not feed. The best known of the 65 described species occurs in North America and Europe.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The brave Lasiochalcidia wasps of Europe and Africa throw themselves into the nightmarish jaws of an ant lion, pry them apart and insert their eggs into its throat. Christie Wilcox, Scientific American, 1 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ant lion.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History

First Known Use

1742, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ant lion was in 1742

Dictionary Entries Near ant lion

Cite this Entry

“Ant lion.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition

ant lion

: a four-winged insect that when a larva digs a cone-shaped pit in which it lies in wait to catch insects (as ants) on which it feeds
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