About 90 species of antlions may be found in North America. The larval stage of some live under the bark of dead trees. Others live in the soil. Larval antlions that live in the sand are also known as ‘doodlebugs’ (not to be confused with pill bugs, a type of woodlice also known as doodlebugs or roly-poly’s). Doodlebugs are widely distributed in the United States. They are more common in the South and the Southwest since they prefer to live in dry sandy areas.
Full-grown larvae are about ¼ inch long. They have very soft bodies. They are oval, plump, and are rather pointed at the back end. Their head is small, flattened and equipped with a pair of long sickle-shaped jaws.
The larvae move as good backwards as they do forward. They are often seen moving backwards, in a circle.
Doodlebug larvae live at the bottom of conical pits that they build in loose, sandy soil. These pits are made by the doodlebugs, using their flattened heads to flip sand out of the pits. They feed on ants and other small insects that fall into and are trapped in their pits.
Adult antlions resemble very small dragonflies or damselflies. They have a thin body and a small head with long, knobbed antennae. They fly on two pairs of long translucent wings, sometimes patterned with black spots. They are very slow and feeble fliers. Adults fly just as it is getting dark and they are often found on screen doors where porch lights are burning. Adult females lay their eggs in sandy soil, but some eggs take up to two years to hatch.